Moral distress and moral residue
Moral distress occurs when an individual, as a moral agent, is constrained from doing what s/he believes is the right course of action, morally and ethically. Moral constraints may be due to a variety of factors, including legal, social, or institutional barriers. Moral distress creates a situation in which the individual healthcare provider feels as though s/he is compromising her/his moral integrity.
Moral distress was first identified in relation to nurses, but it can affect all types of healthcare providers.
Moral residue is what is left when there is unresolved moral distress. It is the residue that remains and builds up over time, particularly when morally distressing episodes repeat.
Recognizing the negative impact of moral distress on healthcare providers, and ultimately health care, we have developed a tool to help you better understand and manage moral distress, the Moral Distress Education Project. In addition to explaining causes and possible outcomes of moral distress, we also offer potential solutions, recognizing that moral distress cannot be completely eliminated in health care. We hope you find this tool useful and would appreciate your feedback about it.