Nursing advocates assess nurses’ mental state and staffing issues


NursesTakeDC conducts an investigation into staffing security and moral distress. Add your voice here.

Doris Carroll, IA, BSN

Recently, I attended a seminar in the AIDS Education and Training Center program. Speaker Renslow Sherer, MD, presented data on the effectiveness of COVID vaccines and the need for a booster dose for people living with HIV. Towards the end of his speech, Sherer shared a poignant thought that ringed true for me:

The way we survived during the AIDS epidemic is quite similar to what we face today.

In the fallout from the COVID pandemic, “we all suffer from PTSD,” Sherer said. All of us. It reminds me of those years in the late 1980s and early 1990s when we had little to offer our HIV positive patients. The feeling of hopelessness among nurses who could only sit idly by while their patients endured tremendous suffering is now called “moral distress”.

“The term ‘moral distress’ was coined by [philosopher Andrew] Jameton who observed in nurses a tendency to feel anxious when they were forced to act, due to institutional constraints, in [a] way that was contrary to their beliefs ”, according to a 2019 Healthcare analysis article. “Jameton has therefore suggested that moral distress arises when” one knows what to do, but institutional constraints make it almost impossible to pursue the right course of action. “”

An article published in August in Nursing ethics reports that repeated and incessant moral distress can lead to moral harm. “Moral wounds involve deep emotional injury and are unique to those who testify to intense human suffering and cruelty.”

Along with my nursing colleagues, I have suffered moral injuries throughout the COVID pandemic. In February, I retired after 38 years in nursing. I was at the peak of my career in nursing and union activism.

Survey of nurses on safe staffing and moral distress

I quit breastfeeding in part to care for my 87-year-old mother in her own home in Florida, but mainly because I had reached my limits – physically and emotionally – to work safely in my facility. And that is what the country is currently facing: nurses leaving the profession they have chosen in times of pandemic.

The pain nurses feel is indeed palpable.

NursesTakeDC (NTDC), a nonprofit nursing organization, launched an investigation into staff and moral distress on October 1, which runs through October 31. The responses are anonymous. To be part of the study, please complete the NTDC Staff Safety Survey.

We need the nation to hear from you. Your contribution will help the NTDC to support federal and state personnel security legislation. Nurses need to be heard so that we can promote patient safety. Silence is a consensus, so tell us what you are going through in your workplace and share our survey with other nurses.

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