IJERPH, Vol. 19, Pages 9701: COVID-19 Outbreak: Understanding Moral-Distress Experiences Faced by Healthcare Workers in British Columbia, Canada (International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health)
Pandemic-management plans shift the care model from patient-centred to public-centred and increase the risk of healthcare workers (HCWs) experiencing moral distress (MD). This study aimed to understand HCWs’ MD experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic and to identify HCWs’ preferred coping strategies. Based on a qualitative research methodology, three surveys were distributed at different stages of the pandemic response in British Columbia (BC), Canada. The thematic analysis of the data revealed common MD themes: concerns about ability to serve patients and about the risks intrinsic to the pandemic. Additionally, it revealed that COVID-19 fatigue and collateral impact of COVID-19 were important ethical challenges faced by the HCWs who completed the surveys. These experiences caused stress, anxiety, increased/decreased empathy, sleep disturbances, and feelings of helplessness. Respondents identified self-care and support provided by colleagues, family members, or friends as their main MD coping mechanisms. To a lesser extent, they also used formal sources of support provided by their employer and identified additional strategies they would like their employers to implement (e.g., improved access to mental health and wellness resources). These results may help inform pandemic policies for the future.