Measuring Moral Distress Among Critical Care Clinicians: Validation and Psychometric Properties of the Italian Moral Distress Scale-Revised*

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Moral distress is a common experience among critical care professionals, leading to frustration, withdrawal from patient care, and job abandonment. Most of the studies on moral distress have used the Moral Distress Scale or its revised version (Moral Distress Scale-Revised). However, these scales have never been validated through factor analysis. This article aims to explore the factorial structure of the Moral Distress Scale-Revised and develop a valid and reliable scale through factor analysis.


Validation study using a survey design.


Eight medical-surgical ICUs in the north of Italy.


A total of 184 clinicians (64 physicians, 94 nurses, and 14 residents).


The Moral Distress Scale-Revised was translated into Italian and administered along with a measure of depression (Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition) to establish convergent validity. Exploratory factor analysis was conducted to explore the Moral Distress Scale-Revised factorial structure. Items with low (less than or equal to 0.350) or multiple saturations were removed. The resulting model was tested through confirmatory factor analysis.

Measurements and Main Results:

The Italian Moral Distress Scale-Revised is composed of 14 items referring to four factors: futile care, poor teamwork, deceptive communication, and ethical misconduct. This model accounts for 59% of the total variance and presents a good fit with the data (root mean square error of approximation = 0.06; comparative fit index = 0.95; Tucker-Lewis index = 0.94; weighted root mean square residual = 0.65). The Italian Moral Distress Scale-Revised evinces good reliability (α = 0.81) and moderately correlates with Beck Depression Inventory-Second Edition (r = 0.293; p < 0.001). No significant differences were found in the moral distress total score between physicians and nurses. However, nurses scored higher on futile care than physicians (t = 2.051; p = 0.042), whereas physicians scored higher on deceptive communication than nurses (t = 3.617; p < 0.001). Moral distress was higher for those clinicians considering to give up their position (t = 2.778; p = 0.006).


The Italian Moral Distress Scale-Revised is a valid and reliable instrument to assess moral distress among critical care clinicians and develop tailored interventions addressing its different components. Further research could test the generalizability of its factorial structure in other cultures.

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