Ethical challenges are inherent in nursing practice. They affect patients, families, teams, organizations, and nurses themselves. These challenges arise when there are competing core values or commitments and diverse views on how to balance or reconcile them. When ethical conflict, confusion, or uncertainty cannot be resolved, moral suffering ensues. The consequences of moral suffering in its many forms undermine safe, high-quality patient care, erode teamwork, and undermine well-being and integrity. My experience as a nurse in the pediatric intensive care unit and later as a clinical nurse specialist in confronting these moral and ethical challenges has been the foundation of my program of research. Together we will explore the evolution of our understanding of moral suffering—its expressions, meanings, and consequences and attempts to measure it. Moral distress, the most described form of moral suffering, took hold within nursing and slowly within other disciplines. After 3 decades of research documenting the existence of moral distress, there were few solutions. It was at this juncture that my work pivoted toward exploring the concept of moral resilience as a means for transforming but not eliminating moral suffering. The evolution of the concept, its components, a scale to measure it, and research findings will be explored. Throughout this journey, the interplay of moral resilience and a culture of ethical practice were highlighted and examined. Moral resilience is continuing to evolve in its application and relevance. Many vital lessons have been learned that can inform future research and guide interventions to harness the inherent capabilities of clinicians to restore or preserve their integrity and to engage in large-scale system transformation.
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Distinguished Research Lecture| July 01 2023
Transforming Moral Suffering by Cultivating Moral Resilience and Ethical Practice
Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN
Cynda Hylton Rushton is the Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics, Berman Institute of Bioethics, and a professor of nursing and pediatrics, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, Baltimore, Maryland.
Corresponding author: Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing, 525 N. Wolfe St, Rm 420, Baltimore, MD 21205 (email: email@example.com).
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Am J Crit Care (2023) 32 (4): 238–248.
Cynda Hylton Rushton; Transforming Moral Suffering by Cultivating Moral Resilience and Ethical Practice. Am J Crit Care 1 July 2023; 32 (4): 238–248. doi: https://doi.org/10.4037/ajcc2023207
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