Moral Distress and Associated Factors Among Baccalaureate Nursing Students: A Multisite Descriptive Study

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Abstract

AIM

The three study aims were to assess moral distress among senior baccalaureate nursing students, describe ethical dilemmas contributing to their moral distress in practice settings, and identify reasons for inaction when encountering dilemmas.

BACKGROUND

Previous studies have linked postlicensure nurses' moral distress to compassion fatigue, frustration, and turnover. Little is known about this phenomenon in students.

METHOD

This study employed a descriptive cross-sectional survey design to measure moral distress and reasons for not taking action across three academic sites (N = 267). Content analysis was used to identify themes of distressing clinical situations.

RESULTS

Aggregate mean moral distress rating was 3.12. Content analysis revealed compromised best practices, disrespect for human dignity, perceived constraints, and navigating personal values. The most frequent reasons for inaction were subordinate role, relationship preservation, incomplete knowledge, and uncertainty about speaking up.

CONCLUSION

Results help educators prioritize strategies to prevent and manage moral distress among students.

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