Moral Distress in Physicians and Nurses: Impact on Professional Quality of Life and Turnover
Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate moral distress (MD) and turnover intent as related to professional quality of life in physicians and nurses at a tertiary care hospital. Method: Health care providers from a variety of hospital departments anonymously completed 2 validated questionnaires (Moral Distress Scale–Revised and Professional Quality of Life Scale). Compassion fatigue (as measured by secondary traumatic stress [STS] and burnout [BRN]) and compassion satisfaction are subscales which make up one’s professional quality of life. Relationships between these constructs and clinicians’ years in health care, critical care patient load, and professional discipline were explored. Results: The findings (n = 329) demonstrated significant correlations between STS, BRN, and MD. Scores associated with intentions to leave or stay in a position were indicative of high verses low MD. We report highest scoring situations of MD as well as when physicians and nurses demonstrate to be most at risk for STS, BRN and MD. Both physicians and nurses identified the events contributing to the highest level of MD as being compelled to provide care that seems ineffective and working with a critical care patient load >50%. Conclusion: The results from this study of physicians and nurses suggest that the presence of MD significantly impacts turnover intent and professional quality of life. Therefore implementation of emotional wellness activities (e.g., empowerment, opportunity for open dialog regarding ethical dilemmas, policy making involvement) coupled with ongoing monitoring and routine assessment of these maladaptive characteristics is warranted.