Moral Distress


Between December 2012 and September of 2014, the research study entitled “Moral Distress in the Care of People with Dementia in Residential Care Settings” will be taking place in Southern Alberta, Canada, in the South Zone of Alberta Health Services.   (Update: study extended to June, 2015)

What we already know: Moral distress is the bad feeling that a nurse gets when she/he knows the right thing to do for a client or resident, but for some reason is unable to do it. Research in hospital settings shows that when moral distress is present over time, nurses are more likely to leave jobs, or even leave the profession.  We know that the nursing care provided in residential care settings is complex. We believe that this care becomes even more complex and challenging for nurses caring for residents who live with dementia. We also know that the retention of nurses in residential care settings is vital, and a growing challenge.

What this study adds: This is the first study to closely examine what moral distress looks and feels like for nurses in residential care settings providing care to people living with dementia. In this two year study, we will (in Phase One of the study) talk with nurses (registered nurses, licensed practical nurses as well as health care aides) to discover the nature of how moral distress experienced, situations that trigger it, and how nurses try to cope with the feelings that arise. Once we have a deeper understanding of moral distress in this setting, we will be developing a survey that will allow us (in Phase Two of the study) to measure moral distress in residential care settings.

What do we hope to achieve: We believe that a deeper understanding of this important issue is essential in assisting decision makers as they endeavour to create healthier workplaces for nursing staff, and maintain the highest quality of care for people living in residential care settings.

NEW: Read the Final Report





Alzheimer Society

University of Lethbridge
University of Calgary