05 Moral distress in midwifery: Framing the issue

May 5, 2023 @ 02:00 – 02:50 UTC Timezone
Room C

Speaker: Wendy Foster

Facilitators: Belle Bruce and Siti Khuzaiyah

Problem: Across the globe midwives are leaving the profession. Moral distress may contribute to this attrition. While moral distress is broadly understood within health care disciplines a contextual understanding of moral distress in midwifery is limited. Current tools available to screen for moral distress are not as suitable for use in midwifery practice. 

Methodology: This project is an exploratory sequential mixed methods design that occurred across four phases; concept analysis, in-depth interviews, an e-Delphi study and a pilot study. This presentation will present key findings from the first three phases.

Results: Midwives report feeling demoralised and confirmed the presence of moral distress in practice due to excessive workloads, unnecessary intervention and hierarchical medical systems. Health care organisations are identified as placing midwives in morally compromising situation that are significant factors in the development of moral distress. Negative psychological outcomes are a key feature in moral distress with midwives describing symptoms of work-related stress and anxiety, increased sick/personal leave, feelings of powerlessness and burnout. Importantly it was identified that moral distress was likely to occur across a continuum from low (moral frustration), moderate (moral distress) and severe (moral injury). A pilot tool to screen for moral distress across a continuum has been developed. 

Conclusion: Moral distress is a significant issue in midwifery practice. The development of the midwifery moral distress screening tool has enhanced the conceptual understanding. This study has provided additional language for midwives to describe their experiences and may assist organisations to identify and address ethical challenges within workplaces. 

Recording https://youtu.be/Czfj3EUg6g4