Moral distress experienced by non-Western nurses: An integrative review

Nursing Ethics 27 (3):778-795 (2020)
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Background: Moral distress has been identified as a significant issue in nursing practice for many decades. However, most studies have involved American nurses or Western medicine settings. Cultural differences between Western and non-Western countries might influence the experience of moral distress. Therefore, the literature regarding moral distress experiences among non-Western nurses is in need of review. Aim: The aim of this integrative review was to identify, describe, and synthesize previous primary studies on moral distress experienced by non-Western nurses. Review method: Whittemore and Knafl’s integrative review methodology was used to structure and conduct the review of the literature. Research context and data sources: Key relevant health databases included the Ovid MEDLINE, CINAHL, Web of Science, and Google Scholar databases. Two relevant journals, Nursing Ethics and Bioethics, were manually searched. Ethical consideration: We have considered and respected ethical conduct when performing a literature review, respecting authorship and referencing sources. Findings: A total of 17 primary studies published between 1999 and 2019 were appraised. There was an inconsistency with regard to moral distress levels and its relationship with demographic variables. The most commonly cited clinical causes of moral distress were providing futile care for end-of-life patients. Unit/team constraints (poor collaboration and communication, working with incompetent colleagues, witnessing practice errors, and professional hierarchy) and organizational constraints (limited resources, excessive administrative work, conflict within hospital policy, and perceived lack of support by administrators) were identified as moral distress’s stimulators. Negative impacts on nurses’ physical, psychological, and spiritual well-being were also reported. Conclusion: Further research is needed to investigate moral distress among other healthcare professions which may further build understanding. More importantly, interventions to address moral distress need to be developed and tested.



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