‘Running Towards the Bullets’: Moral Injury in Critical Care Nursing in the COVID-19 Pandemic

Martyn Griffin*, Peter Hamilton, Oonagh Harness, Nicki Credland, Robert McMurray

*Corresponding author for this work

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The COVID-19 pandemic placed unprecedented strain on healthcare professionals around the globe, particularly those working in intensive care units. It was reported that instances of moral injury – a betrayal of what is ethically right by those in positions of power – were widespread in these organizational settings. In this paper, we explore these emerging findings to ask: What are the experiences and implications of moral injury in critical care nursing during the pandemic? Drawing on 103 interviews with 54 critical care nurses, we offer insights into the experience of moral injury in a workplace experiencing crisis, focusing on (i) unsafe staffing levels, (ii) inadequate equipment, and (iii) inability to provide patients with a dignified death. We provide accounts of the implications of moral injury ranging from debilitating anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder and sectioning, as well as widespread feelings of anger and guilt leading to an intention to leave the profession.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-202
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Management Inquiry
Issue number2
Early online date26 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2024

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