Nurse Retention News: Moral Distress Increases Nurse Turnover

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, April 25th, 2013

Moral distress is a serious problem among nurses and must be addressed for their sake…and their patients.

According to the AACN, moral distress occurs when “You know the ethically appropriate action to take, but are unable to act upon it or you act in a manner contrary to your personal and professional values, which undermines your integrity and authenticity.”

Several factors can contribute to moral distress including, but not limited to, intense patient situations (e.g. trauma, end of life care), lack of collaboration, and disrespectful communication.

When caregivers don’t feel safe at work to do what they know is right, every member of the healthcare team and the patients suffer.

Untreated moral distress can result in emotional exhaustion, increased absenteeism, low morale, chronic discontent, and job dissatisfaction, which leads to compassion fatigue and burn out. These symptoms can contribute to staff turnover.

Nursing leaders must recognize the physical, mental, and spiritual symptoms of moral distress, which may include fatigue, headaches, increased illnesses and weight gain/loss. Mental symptoms may include anger, fear, guilt, depression and resentment.  Spiritually nurses may feel disconnected from people and face a crisis of faith.  Moral distress can cause caregivers to feel out of control and begin to question why they are doing what they are doing.

Moral distress can cause significant harm to caregivers and patients alike when left untreated.

Nurse leaders must be alert to these changes in their staff. Some hospitals and care centers offer employees free counseling sessions. Some have colleagues on each unit, trained to watch for signs of stress and offer support to the caregiver and referrals to counseling with chaplains or counselors.

To learn more strategies for physical, mental and spiritual health, nurse retention, nurse recruitment and how to increase work life balance for nurses and healthcare professionals, go to SelfCare for HealthCare. CONTACT ME DIRECTLY to talk about customizing this powerful program for your employees.

2 responses to “Nurse Retention News: Moral Distress Increases Nurse Turnover”

  1. Robert C. Gordon says:

    This posting on “Moral Distress” caught my eye. Do you recommend any academic sources on the study of this phenomenon?

  2. Jacinth says:

    I like this article. It is not a good feeling when you are treated disrespectful by coworker, including doctors, or even patients. You feel diminished in some ways and it is hard regain your confidence to deal with the rest of your shift.

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