Moral Distress Among Operating Room Personnel During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Qualitative Study

Fagerdahl AM, Torbjörnsson E, Gustavsson M, Älgå A

Journal of Surgical Research 273 (-) 110-118 [2022-05-00; online 2022-05-00]

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated the reallocation of healthcare resources, and a minimization of elective activities. Healthcare personnel involved in COVID-19 care have been negatively affected by the associated excess stress. The existing COVID-19 research has focused on the experiences among healthcare personnel in general, and not particularly on the operating room team members, who have often been relocated to overburdened workplaces. Therefore, we aimed to explore the experiences in this particular group. This study has a qualitative inductive design based on interviews with a strategic sample of 12 operating room team members: surgeons, anesthesiologist, specialist nurses, and nurse assistants. The interviews were analyzed using content analysis. Three themes were identified: "Feeling safe in the familiar and anxiety in the unknown", "To be the ones left behind", and "The possibility for recuperation in a seemingly everlasting situation". The participants described working hard, although their efforts were experienced as not enough according to their moral ideals. We interpreted this as feelings and signs of moral distress, a commonly described concept in previous studies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a risk for burn out. The operating room team members emphasized the negative stress of being in the unknown, performing work tasks in an unfamiliar place and situation, and experiencing conflicting feelings of relief and guilt. Organizational strategies toward a functional leadership and support should be emphasized. Such strategies might reduce the risk of psychological consequences such as burn out.

Category: Health

Type: Journal article

PubMed 35033820

DOI 10.1016/j.jss.2021.12.011

Crossref 10.1016/j.jss.2021.12.011

pii: S0022-4804(21)00740-X
pmc: PMC8692083

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