Understanding the Relationships Between Health Care Providers’ Moral Distress and Patients’ Quality of Death

Link to article at PubMed

J Palliat Med. 2023 Mar 7. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2022.0425. Online ahead of print.


Introduction: Moral distress is a commonly recognized phenomenon among health care providers; however, the experience of moral distress by staff caring for patients who die during an acute care hospital stay has not been previously examined. It also remains unclear how the quality of a death may impact moral distress among these providers. Objectives: We sought to understand levels of moral distress experienced by intern physicians and nurses who provided care during a patient's final 48 hours of life, and how the perceived quality of death impacted moral distress. Materials and Methods: We utilized a mixed-method prospective cohort design, surveying nurses and interns following inpatient hospital deaths at an academic safety-net hospital in the United States. Participants completed surveys and answered open-ended questions to evaluate moral distress and the quality of the patient's death. Results: A total of 126 surveys were sent to nurses and interns caring for 35 patients who died, with 46 surveys completed. Overall moderate-to-high levels of moral distress were identified among participants, and we found that higher levels of moral distress correlated with lower perceived quality of death. We identified five themes in our qualitative analysis highlighting the challenges nurses and interns face in end-of-life care, including the following: poor communication, unexpected deaths, patient suffering, resource limitations, and failure to prioritize a patient's wishes or best interests. Conclusions: Nurses and interns experience moderate-to-high levels of moral distress when caring for dying patients. Lower quality of end-of-life care is associated with higher levels of moral distress.

PMID:36880878 | DOI:10.1089/jpm.2022.0425

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