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Crit Care Nurs Clin North Am. 2012 Mar;24(1):91-100. doi: 10.1016/j.ccell.2012.01.004. Epub 2012 Feb 3.

How professional nurses working in hospital environments experience moral distress: a systematic review.

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School of Nursing, Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, IN 46323, USA.


The experience of moral distress for professional nurses working in hospital environments causes a myriad of biological, psychological, and stress-related reactions. There is an institutional culpability in producing an environment where moral distress is experienced. This is particularly true when nurses feel the need to advocate for patients' well-being while coping with institutional constraints. The perception of patient pain and suffering as a result of medical decisions, which the nurse has little power to influence, contributes to the experience. Unequal power structures, prevalent in institutions, exacerbate the problem. Critical care nurses need to recognize moral distress and its adverse impact on providing optimal patient care. Critical care nurses should make a personal commitment that moral distress will not impact their nursing care and take a leadership role in their units to address this issue with their employing institution and develop strategies to lessen the impact of moral distress. These strategies should be based on the best available evidence such as this systematic review and other relevant appraised works.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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