Moral distress in the neonatal intensive care unit: an Italian study

J Perinatol. 2015 Mar;35(3):214-7. doi: 10.1038/jp.2014.182. Epub 2014 Oct 9.


Objective: The objective of this study was to evaluate the frequency, the intensity and the level of moral distress experienced by nurses working in neonatal intensive care units (NICUs).

Study design: We conducted a cross-sectional questionnaire survey involving 472 nurses working in 15 level III NICUs. Frequency, intensity and level of moral distress was evaluated using a modified version of Moral Distress Scale Neonatal-Pediatric Version. Socio-demographic data were also collected.

Result: Four hundred six nurses completed the study material indicating a low-to-moderate experience of moral distress. The situations receiving the highest scores for frequency, intensity and level of moral distress related to the initiation of extensive life-saving actions and participation to the care of ventilator-dependent child. No difference in the mean scores of moral distress was found according to the socio-demographic characteristics investigated.

Conclusion: The present study provides further insight into the moral distress experienced by nurses working in Italian NICUs.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / ethics*
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Italy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Morals
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / ethics*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / psychology*
  • Stress, Psychological*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult