Understanding how student nurses experience morally distressing situations: Caring for patients with different values and beliefs in the clinical environment

Mary Jo C Stanley, Nancy J. Matchett


Introduction/Background: Moral distress and related concepts surrounding morality and ethical decision-making have been given much attention in nursing. Despite the general consensus that moral distress is an affective response to being unable to act morally, the literature attests to the need for increased clarity regarding theoretical and conceptual constructs used to describe precisely what the experience of moral distress involves. The purpose of this study is to understand how student nurses experience morally distressing situations when caring for patients with different values and beliefs than their own in the clinical environment

Methods: This study is based on secondary analysis of participant data. The stories of eight student nurses who completed the original study were reviewed following Yin’s multiple-case study design.

Results: Findings suggest there is a subtle form of moral distress that has been under appreciated in the literature and differs from Jameton’s classic definition. While traditional institutional triggers to moral distress are pervasive, personal conflict as a result of differing value systems may be a moral challenge faced by nursing students working with culturally diverse patients.

Conclusion: Ethics education is needed in nursing school to reduce moral distress in the clinical environment. Nursing students need opportunities to develop moral reasoning skills in addition to their clinical skills. A philosophical approach to ethics education may be needed to prevent and alleviate moral distress.


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5430/jnep.v4n10p133

Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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