As a nurse, you often feel pulled in many different ways — and no, we don’t simply mean the number of patients you have each day. On the one side you have your co-workers and the facility in general. There are budgets to maintain, treatment regimens to carry out and documentation to complete. Then, on the other, you have those same patients we referenced. It is these patients that look to you, not only to be their caregiver but their guardian and their subject matter expert in all things healthcare they may not understand.
In some cases these two roles will work hand-in-hand. In others, they won’t. When the needs of your patients pull against the facility's obligations, it’s quite possible you’ll feel some moral distress. If you’ve experienced a trying situation like the above or if you’re going through one right now, the ideas presented in this guide can help you navigate this potentially difficult situation.
* Find someone you can talk to. Everyone needs a confidant and if you’re dealing with issues of moral distress, a fellow nurse, who understands what you’re going through, is best. This person may be a trusted co-worker or it could be a friend on social media, through a nurse job board or from a professional agency or consulting service. Discuss the situation with them — protecting patient confidentiality, of course — and get their opinion. An outsider’s take can help you determine the issue very quickly.
* Come back to the code of ethics. The American Nurses Association Code of Ethics represents a foundation you can base current and future decisions upon. If you are a specialty nurse, your organization may have specific positions related to potential ethical issues. In either event, consult these positions and use their stance as a guide to follow in your own work.
* Never stop learning. As a nurse, you’re always learning something new and this can be invaluable for issues that could cause you moral distress. Reading up on the issues popping up across the industry can help you think strategically about what you would do so that, should you ever face such an issue in real life, you’ll be ready when it happens.
What do you do to counter issues of moral distress you experience? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.