Implementation of the Dementia Isolation Toolkit in long-term care improves awareness but does not reduce moral distress amongst healthcare providers

Anne Marie Levy, Alisa Grigorovich, Josephine McMurray, Hannah Quirt, Kaitlyn Ranft, Katia Engell, Steven Stewart, Arlene Astell, Kristina Kokorelias, Denise Schon, Kevin Rogrigues, Mario Tsokas, Alastair J. Flint, Andrea Iaboni*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Background: Healthcare providers may experience moral distress when they are unable to take the ethically or morally appropriate action due to real or perceived constraints in delivering care, and this psychological stressor can negatively impact their mental health, leading to burnout and compassion fatigue. This study describes healthcare providers experiences of moral distress working in long-term care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic and measures self-reported levels of moral distress pre- and post-implementation of the Dementia Isolation Toolkit (DIT), a person-centred care intervention designed for use by healthcare providers to alleviate moral distress.

Methods: Subjective levels of moral distress amongst providers (e.g., managerial, administrative, and front-line employees) working in three long-term care homes was measured pre- and post-implementation of the DIT using the Moral Distress in Dementia Care Survey and semi-structured interviews. Interviews explored participants experiences of moral distress in the workplace and the perceived impact of the intervention on moral distress.

Results: A total of 23 providers between the three long-term care homes participated. Following implementation of the DIT, subjective levels of moral distress measured by the survey did not change. When interviewed, participants reported frequent experiences of moral distress from implementing public health directives, staff shortages, and professional burnout that remained unchanged following implementation. However, in the post-implementation interviews, participants who used the DIT reported improved self-awareness of moral distress and reductions in the experience of moral distress. Participants related this to feeling that the quality of resident care was improved by integrating principals of person-centered care and information gathered from the DIT.

Conclusions: This study highlights the prevalence and exacerbation of moral distress amongst providers during the pandemic and the myriad of systemic factors that contribute to experiences of moral distress in long-term care settings. We report divergent findings with no quantitative improvement in moral distress post-intervention, but evidence from interviews that the DIT may ease some sources of moral distress and improve the perceived quality of care delivered. This study demonstrates that an intervention to support person-centred isolation care in this setting had limited impact on overall moral distress during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Original languageEnglish
Article number481
Number of pages16
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Apr 2024

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