Dilemmas of moral distress: moral responsibility and nursing practice

AWHONNS Clin Issues Perinat Womens Health Nurs. 1993;4(4):542-51.


The experience of moral distress can be distinguished from the experience of moral dilemmas. In moral distress, a nurse knows the morally right course of action to take, but institutional structure and conflicts with other co-workers create obstacles. A nurse who fails to act in the face of obstacles also may have reactive distress in addition to the initial distress. Both kinds of distress pose dilemmas about individual and collective moral responsibility. Coping with these dilemmas effectively requires taking at least some successful actions to resolve distress.

MeSH terms

  • Ethics, Nursing
  • Humans
  • Morals*
  • Nurses / psychology*
  • Professional Competence
  • Social Responsibility
  • Stress, Psychological*