Bioethics News

A Path towards Moral Resilience in Nursing

By Peter Young


What should nurses do in the face of adversity and moral distress? Moral distress, the response to situations that imperil the integrity of nurses because of institutional constraints or pressures, is a form of moral suffering.  After nearly 30 years of research into moral distress there are still no clear-cut answers about how to reduce its detrimental impact on nurses, teams and institutions.  In an attempt to rectify this, 46 nurse leaders came together on August 11 and 12 to participate in a State of the Science Symposium entitled “Transforming Moral Distress to Moral Resiliency in Nursing.” This effort, hosted by the American Journal of Nursing, Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, and the Berman Institute of Bioethics and co-led by our own Dr. Cynda Rushton, featured many of the brightest minds within nursing ethics. The two-day meeting, attended by nurse ethicists and leaders in nursing and health care, will help advance effective solutions to address moral distress and build moral resilience. “It is a pivotal time to design solutions to the recalcitrant problem of moral distress in nursing and healthcare.” Says Dr. Cynda Rushton.  “The roadmap for addressing moral distress, focusing on the dynamic interplay between individuals and the environments where they practice, offers promising solutions and hope for the future.”


To better understand the goals of the symposium, imagine a hypothetical ICU nurse, Sarah, who is working with a terminally-ill patient, the family of whom would like to pursue every medical option possible including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), although it may not be medically indicated.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.