Journal of Bioethical Inquiry

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 325–336

Nurses’ Responses to Initial Moral Distress in Long-Term Care

  • Marie P. Edwards
  • Susan E. McClement
  • Laurie R. Read


While researchers have examined the types of ethical issues that arise in long-term care, few studies have explored long-term care nurses’ experiences of moral distress and fewer still have examined responses to initial moral distress. Using an interpretive description approach, 15 nurses working in long-term care settings within one city in Canada were interviewed about their responses to experiences of initial moral distress, resources or supports they identified as helpful or potentially helpful in dealing with these situations, and factors that hindered nurses in their responses. Using a thematic analysis process, three major themes were identified from the nurses’ experiences: (i) the context of the situation matters; (ii) the value of coming together as a team; and (iii) looking for outside direction. The work of responding to initial moral distress was more fruitful if opportunities existed to discuss conflicts with other team members and if managers supported nurses in moving their concerns forward through meetings or conversations with the team, physician, or family. Access to objective others and opportunities for education about ethics were also identified as important for dealing with value conflicts.


Moral distress Long-term care Nurses Conflicts Ethics committees 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marie P. Edwards
    • 1
  • Susan E. McClement
    • 1
    • 2
  • Laurie R. Read
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of NursingUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Manitoba Palliative Care Research UnitCancerCare ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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