NICU Nurses' Moral Distress Surrounding the Deaths of Infants


NICU Nurses' Moral Distress Surrounding the Deaths of Infants


Han S; Min H; Kim S


Nursing Ethics




end-of-life; ethical dilemma; infants and families; moral distress; neonatal intensive care; nursing


BACKGROUND: As Korean neonatal nurses frequently experience the deaths of infants, moral distress occurs when they provide end-of-life care to the infants and their families. Although they need to care for the patients' deaths and consequently experience burnout and turnover due to moral distress from the situation, there is a lack of a support for nurses. Moreover, not much information is available on the moral distress of neonatal nurses. There is a need to better understand Korean neonatal nurses' moral distress to develop and implement appropriate supports. OBJECTIVE: This study aimed to describe nurses' experience of moral distress when they provide end-of-life care to infants and their families in neonatal intensive care units. RESEARCH DESIGN: This is a secondary analysis qualitative study. Content analysis was performed based on Corley's theory of moral distress to develop a codebook and identify themes regarding moral distress among the nurses. PARTICIPANTS AND RESEARCH CONTEXT: Qualitative data were collected from 20 nurses working in two NICUs in Seoul, South Korea. ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: The original study obtained permission from a university's institutional review board (IRB). This secondary analysis study obtained the exemption from another university's IRB. Nurses' participation was voluntary and confidential. FINDINGS: The nurses' moral distress was derived when they faced moral constraints and/or moral conflicts. Two distinct categories of moral constraints and four distinct categories of moral conflicts were identified among the neonatal nurses. In addition, impacts of moral distress on patients and nurses were identified. CONCLUSIONS: This study identified occasions neonatal nurses experience moral distress, and thus can guide in developing and implementing effective interventions to decrease their moral distress and improve their resilience in end-of-life care by providing insight into neonatal nurses' needs for support in end-of-life care.


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Citation List Month

December List 2022



Han S; Min H; Kim S, “NICU Nurses' Moral Distress Surrounding the Deaths of Infants,” Pediatric Palliative Care Library, accessed June 15, 2024,