Moral distress (MD) has been linked to health care professional burnout, intent to leave, and decreased quality of care.
The aim of this study was to describe the perceptions of MD among critical care interdisciplinary team members and assess the association of MD with team member characteristics.
A descriptive cross-sectional design was used with interdisciplinary team members in an intensive care unit setting at an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the southeastern United States. The Measure of Moral Distress for Healthcare Professionals was provided to registered nurses, oncology technicians, providers, respiratory therapists, and ancillary team members (social workers, pharmacists, dietitians).
A total of 67 team members completed the survey. Mean responses for 3 items were higher than 8 (halfway point of scale): “Follow family's insistence to continue aggressive treatment even though I believe it is not in the best interest of patient” (mean [SD], 11.4 [4.8]); “Continue to provide aggressive treatment for a patient most likely to die regardless of this treatment when no one will make a decision to withdraw it” (mean [SD], 10.5 [5.3]); and “Witness providers giving ‘false hope’ to patient/family” (mean [SD], 9.0 [5.3]). Higher responses on the “Continuing to provide aggressive treatment” item was associated with having “considered leaving due to MD” (P = .027) and “considering leaving now due to MD” (P = .016). Higher total scores were related to having left or considered leaving a job (P = .04). When examining education level, registered nurses with a master's degree (n = 5) exhibited the most MD (P = .04).
This study suggests that the Measure of Moral Distress for Healthcare Professionals is useful in identifying areas for focused efforts at reducing MD for interdisciplinary teams.