Are Emergency Nurses More Susceptible to Moral Distress?

NursingJanuary 12, 2016

Moral distress can occur on any job and is when employees feel they’re unable to do what they believe to be right, or in the best interest of others.


A recent study published in the Journal of Emergency Nursing Online suggests the moral distress in ER settings is an experience not found in any other healthcare setting – especially for nurses.


Authors of the study, conducted for the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), reported the primary difference stems from the fact that the emergency department setting is so unique. Rather than being related to specific incidents, moral distress in emergency nurses is prompted by their environment. That’s because there’s no such thing as a typical patient or daily schedule in an ER, and patients aren’t around long enough to really get to know them or form a bond with them.


Based upon distinct emergency department factors – including time-based metrics, staffing levels, and ER patients who frequently return because of addictions or ongoing disorders – researchers concluded ER nurses often experience more moral distress because they often feel they don’t have the time or resources to provide adequate care to patients.


Previous studies on moral distress among nurses focused on the needs of nurses in general – outside the ER. As a result of this study, the ENA is recommending future research be directed specifically on emergency departments in order to help develop strategies that enable emergency nurses to cope with their unique forms of moral distress. By identifying the differing circumstances that define moral distress in the ER, experts hope emergency nurses will be given a stronger voice in the processes, and better outcomes will result. Just the latest example of how the role of nurses continues to evolve.


How To Get Involved in the Nursing Field

As has been said many times – nursing is a combination of the science of healthcare with the art of caring. Nurses are a critical component of quality medical care, and a profession for those who truly want to make a differences in the lives of others.


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