Moral distress of nursing undergraduates: Myth or reality?

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During their education process, nursing undergraduates experience ethical conflicts and dilemmas that can lead to moral distress. Moral distress can deprive the undergraduates of their working potential and may cause physical and mental health problems.


We investigated the experiences of the undergraduates in order to identify the existence of moral distress caused by ethical conflict and dilemmas experienced during their nursing education.

Ethical considerations:

This study was designed according to the principles of research with human beings and was approved by the Human Research Ethics Committee.


A qualitative multiple-case study. Two federal higher education institutions were surveyed, from which 58 undergraduates in nursing participated in the study. The undergraduates were undergoing their professional training. The data were collected through focus groups and were submitted to thematic content analysis, with the resources of the ATLAS TI 7.0 software.


Moral distress in undergraduates is a reality and was identified in three axes of analysis: (1) moral distress is experienced by undergraduates in the reality of healthcare services, (2) the teacher as a source of moral distress, and (3) moral distress as a positive experience.


The undergraduates in nursing manifest moral distress in different stages of their education, particularly during their professional training. The academic community should reflect and seek solutions for the reality of moral distress in undergraduates.

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