, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 253-261
Date: 23 Aug 2011

“I felt like the angel of death”: role conflicts and moral distress among allied professionals employed by the US cardiovascular implantable electronic device industry

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This study aimed to identify themes associated with role conflicts and moral distress experienced by cardiovascular implantable electronic device (CIED) industry-employed allied professionals (IEAPs) in the clinical setting.


Focus groups were used to elicit perspectives from IEAPs who had deactivated a CIED.


Seventeen IEAPs (five women) reported increased clinical presence and work-related role conflicts and moral distress along several themes: (1) relationships with patients, (2) relationships with clinicians, (3) role ambiguity, (4) customer service to clinicians, and (5) CIED deactivation. Patients often misperceived IEAPs as physicians or nurses. Many physicians expected IEAPs to perform clinical duties. Customer service obligations exacerbated IEAP role conflicts and moral distress because of dual agency. IEAPs commonly received and carried out requests to deactivate CIEDs; doing so, however, generated considerable distress—particularly deactivations of pacemakers in pacemaker-dependent patients. Several described themselves as “angels of death.” IEAPs had recommendations for mitigating role conflicts and moral distress, including improving the deactivation process.


IEAPs experienced role conflicts and moral distress regarding their activities in the clinical setting and customer service obligations. Health care institutions should develop and enforce clear boundaries between IEAPs and clinicians in the clinical setting. Clinicians and IEAPs should adhere to these boundaries.

Presented at Heart Rhythm 2010, the 31st Annual Scientific Sessions of the Heart Rhythm Society, Denver, CO, USA, May 12–15, 2010.