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Registered Nurses and Moral Distress

Robinson, Ruthie PhD, RN, FAEN, CEN

doi: 10.1097/DCC.0b013e3181e6c344

Nurses spend more time with patients at the end of life than any other member of the health care team, giving them early insight into futility-of-care issues for a particular patient. Providing futile care to dying patients is a well-known source of moral distress for nurses. Traditional ethical models are not always effective in dealing with these issues. The purpose of this article was to describe moral distress that is often experienced by nurses providing care to patients at the end of life and to propose the use of a model in dealing with associated ethical dilemmas in an effort to decrease the incidence of moral distress.

Critical care nurses are often faced with moral distress when caring for patients at their end of life. This article proposes the use of a model to assist nurses in these situations.

Ruthie Robinson, PhD, RN, FAEN, CEN, serves as a consultant for Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: Ruthie Robinson, PhD, RN, FAEN, CEN, Center for Nursing Innovation, CHRISTUS Hospital, 2830 Calder, Beaumont, TX 77702 (

© 2010 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.