Moral distress experienced by health care professionals who provide home-based palliative care

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Nov;71(9):1687-91. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.032. Epub 2010 Aug 26.


Health care providers regularly encounter situations of moral conflict and distress in their practice. Moral distress may result in unfavorable outcomes for both health care providers and those in their care. The purpose of this study was to examine the experience of moral distress from a broad range of health care occupations that provide home-based palliative care as the initial step of addressing the issue. A critical incident approach was used in qualitative interviews to elicit the experiences on moral distress from 18 health care providers drawn from five home visiting organizations in south central Ontario, Canada. Most participants described at least two critical incidents in their interview generating a total of 47 critical incidents. Analyses of the critical incidents revealed 11 issues that triggered moral distress which clustered into three themes, (a) the role of informal caregivers, b) challenging clinical situations and (c) service delivery issues. The findings suggest that the training and practice environments for health care providers need to be designed to recognize the moral challenges related to day-to-day practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Home Care Services*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals*
  • Ontario
  • Palliative Care / psychology*
  • Qualitative Research
  • Role
  • Stress, Psychological*