Moral distress - a threat to dementia care? A qualitative study of nursing staff members’ experiences in long-term care facilities
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionBMC Health Services Research. 2022, 22, 290. 10.1186/s12913-022-07695-y
Background Dementia is a public health priority worldwide due to its rapidly increasing prevalence and poses challenges with regard to providing proper care, including end-of-life care. This study is part of a research project about nursing staff members’ experiences with providing palliative care for people with severe dementia in long-term care facilities. In an earlier study, we found that structural barriers that complicated the provision of palliative care led to moral distress among nursing staff. In this study, we performed a secondary analysis of the same data set to gain a deeper understanding of nursing staff members experiences of moral distress while providing palliative care for residents with severe dementia in long-term care facilities. Methods A qualitative, descriptive design was used. Data were collected during in-depth interviews with 20 nursing staff members from four Norwegian long-term care facilities. Content previously identified as moral distress was reanalysed by thematic text analysis, as described by Braun and Clarke, to gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon. Results The nursing staff members’ experiences of moral distress were generally of two types: those in which nursing staff members felt pressured to provide futile end-of-life treatment and those in which they felt that they had been prevented from providing necessary care and treatment. Conclusion The findings indicate that nursing staff members’ experiences of moral distress were related to institutional constraints such as time limitations and challenging prioritizations, but they were more often related to value conflicts. Nursing staff members experienced moral distress when they felt obligated to provide care and treatment to residents with severe dementia that conflicted with their own values and knowledge about good palliative care. Both education interventions focused on improving nursing staff members’ skills regarding communication, ethical judgement and coping strategies; in addition, supportive and responsive leadership may have significant value with regard to reducing moral distress. Our findings indicate a need for further research on interventions that can support nursing staff members dealing with ethical conflicts in providing palliative care to residents with dementia.