Moral Distress

“Unfortunately, information about moral distress and its consequences is often inadequate in healthcare provider education.”

This topic of moral distress was never spoken of in our physical therapy program, but I am unsure if this has changed with time.  Moral distress occurs when someone knows the morally right thing to do for that person, but the individual feels like they are unable to do the right thing for one of many reasons.

These are topics that are not addressed well enough in PT school.  If a person doesn’t have strong moral resolve, then the person may work to appease the reason that he/she feels constrained instead of fulfilling his/her own moral code.


“Moral distress as ‘psychological response to morally challenging situations such as those of moral constraint or moral conflict or both’…experience moral distress and burnout in situations such as patients receiving non-beneficial treatment, patient suffering, care not consistent with patients’ preferences, lack of administrative support, perceived powerlessness, and competing obligations.”

For those that are new grads reading this…WELCOME TO THE WORLD OF HEALTH CARE!

Burnout is a topic that has apparently been taboo to talk about in previous years or there hasn’t been a platform in which healthcare practitioners felt comfortable releasing their thoughts.  I can’t remember in my career, albeit only 11 years, in which burnout has been such a large topic as it has been in recent months.

Moral conflict can happen from providing care that is not beneficial.  WHY IN THE WORLD WOULD ANYONE EVER GIVE THIS TYPE OF CARE?!

Enter Shane McMahon

Unfortunately, there have been many therapists that I have spoken to across the country that are performing treatments that they do not personally believe to help the patient, but are trying to stay out of trouble with higher-ups in the company that they are employed.


If you are a patient reading this, close your eyes for this and skip to the next paragraph…Companies are trying to get their hands in your pockets.  (YOU WEREN’T SUPPOSED TO READ THAT!)

“Poor work environments…associated with a higher frequency of nurse-reported healthcare-associated infections. Persistent moral distress can progress to burnout, which is also associated with increased incidence of hospital-acquired infections.”

So…who do you want treating you? Do you want to be treated in an environment that increases your likelihood of developing an infection?

If not…pay attention to your surroundings.  Are your healthcare professionals happy, energized, empowered and fulfilled?  If so, you are probably in a good spot.

“Nurse leaders provided insights on risk factors that increase the possibility of moral distress. System-level factors such as work environment, lack of strong ethics resources, and heavy workloads prevailed.”

If you are practicing in healthcare, does this sound familiar.  A lack of ethical resources and heavy workloads describes most institutions in which I have worked and hear from others in the field of PT.  At no time should money trump patient care, but it happens all too frequently.

I get it…I am trying to run a business.  I have heard the phrases that we need to keep the lights on.  We need to make sure that we are making a small profit.  I get it, but at no point in time should we allow greed to take precedence over patient care.

Seek it out

Understand it

Pay attention to workplace climate

Promote receptive environment and engagement

Open opportunity for dialogue

Reflect, Evaluate, Revise

Transform Environment

Link to article

Thanks for taking the time to read this synopsis.  It would mean a lot to me if you would share this for others to see the state of healthcare in today’s environment.

Categories: Physical therapy, PTs, Written BlogsTags:

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