Prevalence, Predictors, and Experience of Moral Suffering in Nursing and Care Home Staff during the COVID-19 Pandemic : A Mixed-Methods Systematic Review

Background: Nursing and care home staff experienced high death rates of older residents and increased occupational and psychosocial pressures during the COVID-19 pandemic. The literature has previously found this group to be at risk of developing mental health conditions, moral injury (MI), and moral distress (MD). The latter two terms refer to the perceived ethical wrongdoing which contravenes an individual’s moral beliefs and elicits adverse emotional responses. (2)


Method: A systematic review was conducted to explore the prevalence, predictors, and psychological experience of MI and MD in the aforementioned population during the COVID-19 pandemic. The databases CINAHL, APA PsychINFO, APA PsychArticles, Web of Science, Medline, and Scopus were systematically searched for original research studies of all designs, published in English, with no geographical restrictions, and dating from when COVID-19 was declared a public health emergency on the 30 January 2020 to the 3 January 2022. Out of 531 studies screened for eligibility, 8 studies were selected for review. A thematic analysis was undertaken to examine the major underpinning themes. (3)


Results: MI, MD, and related constructs (notably secondary traumatic stress) were evidenced to be present in staff, although most studies did not explore the prevalence or predictors. The elicited major themes were resource deficits, role challenges, communication and leadership, and emotional and psychosocial consequences. (4)


Conclusions: Our findings suggest that moral injury and moral distress were likely to be present prior to COVID-19 but have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Whilst studies were generally of high quality, the dearth of quantitative studies assessing prevalence and predictors suggests a research need, enabling the exploration of causal relationships between variables. However, the implied presence of MI and MD warrants intervention developments and workplace support for nursing and care home staff.

Zainab Laher, Noelle Robertson, Fawn Harrad-Hyde and Ceri R. Jones | 2022
In: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health ; ISSN: 1660-4601 | 19 | 15 | August | 9593
COVID-19 (en), Emotional States, Epidemiology, Guilt, Medical Personnel, Mental health, Moral Injury (eng), Nursing, Occupational Therapy, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Predisposition, Psychological distress, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Public health, Quality of Life, Shame, Systematic Review