Moral distress occurs when a nurse knows the right action but is impeded from taking that right action because of institutional constraints. Caring for patients who are dying might evoke distress, including moral distress. The distress from a difficult clinical situation is likely to permeate other areas of practice. In this article, 2 cases are used as a means to distinguish moral distress from other distress arising from clinical situations. Opportunities to alleviate distress include increasing knowledge, improved communication, enhanced collaboration, and development of institutional supports.
Margaret M. Mahon, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, FPCN, is nurse practitioner, Pain & Palliative Care, Bethesda, Maryland.
Karen L. Barker, MSN, CRNP, is nurse practitioner, Pain & Palliative Care, Bethesda, Maryland.
Address correspondence to Margaret M. Mahon, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, FPCN, National Institutes of Health, 10 Center Drive, Bldg 10/CRC MSN 1517, Bethesda, MD 20892 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.