A Quantitative and Qualitative Inquiry Into Moral Distress, Compassion Fatigue, and Medication Error in Critical Care Nurses

Wednesday, 15 July 2009: 10:45 AM

Jeanne Marie Maiden, PhD
School of Nursing, Point Loma Nazarene University, San Diego, CA

Learning Objective 1: 1.The learner will be able to differentiate between Moral Distress and Compassion Fatigue.

Learning Objective 2: 2.The learner will be able to list 2 findings related to perception of medication error for critical care nurses

Purpose: was to (1) examine the relationships between moral distress, compassion fatigue, & critical care nurses’ perception of medication error; (2) obtain a deepened understanding of the nurses’ experience of medication error, moral distress & compassion fatigue.
Methods: correlational embedded mixed method design  
Results: A sample of 205 critical care nurses (CCNs) provided quantitative data. Findings demonstrated the majority of participants were female (91.7%); mean age 47 (SD = 7.91) years; mean years worked as a nurse was 23 (SD = 8.48). Nineteen CCNs (9.5%) indicated they were considering leaving their current work based on moral distress. Statistically significant positive relationships were found among moral distress, compassion fatigue, & perceived mediation error. Simultaneous multiple regression was conducted to determine the accuracy of moral distress & compassion fatigue in predicting medication scores. Regression results indicated the overall model significantly predicted the Medication Administration Error Subscales of Nursing Staffing, R2 = .11; Disagree with Definition R2 = .13, & the subscale Fear, R2 = .13, accounting for a percentage of the variance.  A summary of regression coefficients indicated one of 10 variables (moral distress) significantly contributed to the models predicting Medication Administration Error Subscale of Nursing Staffing, and Fear. For the Disagree with Definition subscale moral distress, compassion fatigue, & work status were the only variables that significantly contributed to the model. A focus group interview of five CCNs provided the qualitative data.  Emerging themes included Process or Practice Issues, Staff Experience and Support, Negative Emotions & Other Nurses were key in nurses’ understanding of medication error. 
Conclusion: Addressing  fear for critical care nurses is essential. Nurse staffing needs to be clearly understood. Respondents reported a lack of support available as a central theme in why nurses make medication errors. Further study related to what nurses find supportive is necessary to provide structure within healthcare.