Moral Distress in Rehabilitation Professionals: Results From a Hospital Ethics Survey

Debjani Mukherjee*, Rebecca Brashler, Teresa A. Savage, Kristi L. Kirschner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objective: Moral distress in the rehabilitation setting was examined in a follow-up survey. The survey had 3 goals: (1) to systematically and anonymously gather data about the ethical issues that employees struggle with in their daily work; (2) to raise the visibility of the hospital-based ethics program and resources available to employees; and (3) to prioritize and focus the direction of the program's educational seminars, quality improvement projects, and ethics consultation. Design: Online survey of employees. Setting: Urban rehabilitation system of care. Participants: The survey was open to all employees; 207 completed the survey. Interventions: N/A. Main Outcome Measurements: N/A. Conclusions: Three broad categories of moral distress were identified: institutional ethics, professional practice, and clinical decision-making. Institutional ethics issues related to the health care environment, such as health care reimbursement pressures and corporate culture. Professional practice issues involved codes of behavior and concepts of professionalism, including patient confidentiality/privacy. Clinical decision-making included such practical dilemmas as conflicts around goal-setting, discharge planning, and assessment of decision-making capacity. An anonymous survey of staff members allowed the hospital ethics program to identify sources of moral distress and prioritize strategies to address them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-458
Number of pages9
JournalPM and R
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neurology
  • Rehabilitation
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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