Moral Distress in Healthcare Workers

Hey, all.

As the semester comes to a close, I have reflected upon the material covered in this course. We have discussed various risk factors for birth, birth location, and cultural beliefs. Through our discussions, we have recognized the lack of resources in many regions of the world which contributes to the aforementioned topics. Furthermore, we have examined how inadequate supplies and resources affects the birth outcomes of the patients. However, we have not fully explored the idea of the relationship between the lack of resources and the healthcare workers.

According to “Moral distress in nursing practice in Malawi”, nurses experience high rates of moral distress from a variety of sources. For example, the moral distress stems from a shortage of staff members and a lack of resources, as well as mismanagement by superiors, behavior of colleagues, patients’ disrespect, and regulation violations. Furthermore, the article states, “Shortages of these resources meant that nurses cannot provide quality care thereby leading to frustration and demoralization,” (Maluwa 203). Therefore, the inadequate supplies affects not only the pregnant mothers but the healthcare workers as well.

As students in a “Birth and Global Health” course, I assume that many of us desire to pursue a career in a global context. Thus, we, as healthcare workers, will likely encounter situations in which the clinics, if one exists, do not have sufficient supplies. As a result, we may struggle with moral distress as well. Therefore, I pose the following questions to you all: How do you think the lack of resources will affect you? How would you cope with such effects, such as moral distress?

I aspire to pursue a career in humanitarian medicine. Thus, I anticipate that I will have to develop strategies to cope with the moral distress. For instance, perhaps physical activity or mediation may help me shift my focus onto what I can do rather than on the multitude of problems.

Maluwa, Veronica Mary, et al. “Moral Distress In Nursing Practice In Malawi.” Nursing Ethics 19.2 (2012): 196-207. Academic Search Complete. Web. 1 Dec. 2014.

2 thoughts on “Moral Distress in Healthcare Workers

  1. This is a very interesting topic and area to think about in relation to our individual futures and career paths. I think that as we work in various situations with varying amounts of resources, we will learn to appreciate certain things more. In addition, I think personally by coming from a moderately privileged background both in terms of living in a high income nation as well as personal family situations, I will be able to help decrease moral stress caused by a lack of resources and the other factors you mentioned. While I recognize this is probably a more optimistic perspective, I think that the balance in terms of working with low resourced areas as well as high resourced areas will help lower stress and encourage the development of strategies to counteract these setbacks. From personal experience, I have spent the last few years tutoring inner-city children in Atlanta, an educational experience quite different from my privileged upbringing. While at times I felt disheartened with all these children had working against them, I was able to more fully appreciate what I’ve been given both in the past and the present. Additionally, I was amazed with the solutions and innovations these children have developed to try to lessen the gap between them and more privileged students. Thus, I certainly think there is no easy answer to this question, but I think that it may be possibly to recognize these difficulties and grow from them.

  2. Your post, as well as the article about nurses in Malawi, really resonated with me, as I too would like to pursue a career in public health. Numerous times over the semester we have read about instances in which a hospital was not properly staffed or lacked medical materials or instruments necessary for adequate care. As upsetting as this is for all of the members of a city, community, village, or whatever the setting may be, it must be equally as hard on the healthcare workers. They are in the profession to take care of their patients, which they may be unable to do given their lack of resources. Since I plan on doing public health, I know this may be in my future as well, and I honestly cannot say how I will handle it. When I was in Ghana last summer working in a makeshift rural health clinic, a few instances really upset me. One was that we ran out of many antibiotics. When we asked the Ghanian staff what we should do, our only option was to prescribe antibiotics that may not even treat the infection. Another instance was that we did not have enough fluconazole to prescribe prophylactically for women given antibiotics. I often think about how many women got yeast infections from the medication we gave them, and if they were able to make it to their nearest health facility to get treatment for it. To deal with this, I just kept reminding myself that we were doing our best given our resources, and doing something is better than doing nothing at all.

    In a way, we can take comfort in some other things we have read, such as Monique and the Mango Rains. She did not have many resources at all, yet was still able to do a phenomenal job in her clinic and in the delivery room. We also watched the movie “All My Babies”, which demonstrated a safe and healthy delivery using only newspapers and boiling water. While probably most of us would not like to give birth under these circumstances, it is certainly feasible.

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