Stress related to ethical decision-making is a serious consequence of frequent encounters with ethical dilemmas for oncology nurses. A descriptive, correlational design using survey techniques was used as a study design with a nationwide sample of 229 oncology nurses. The results indicated nurses experienced an average of 32 different types of ethical dilemmas within the past year on a daily basis. Pain management is the most frequently cited ethical dilemma, followed by cost containment issues and making quality of life and other decisions in the patient's best interest. Approximately 80% of respondents rated their ethics stress level as a 6 or above on a scale of 0 to 10. Forty-three percent of the sample indicated they use an independent or “sovereign” style of moral reasoning, 23% rely on or accommodate to the judgment of others, and 34% use characteristics of both moral reasoning styles. Understanding the relationships among style of moral reasoning, coping style, and ethics stress can assist nurses and administrators to deal more effectively with the increased moral distress found in many oncology practice settings today. Findings suggest specific interventions for reducing ethics stress in this population of nurses.
© 2000 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.