Preserving moral integrity: a follow-up study with new graduate nurses¶The purpose of this follow-up study was to describe, explain and interpret how new graduate nurses perceived their adaptation to the ‘real world’ of hospital nursing and what they perceived as major influences on their moral values and ethical roles in the 2 years following graduation. The method was qualitative, specifically grounded theory. The earlier study took place when informants were senior nursing students. The follow-up study began after the informants had been practising for 1 year. Research questions guiding the study were: How do new graduate nurses describe their adaptation to the ‘real world’ of hospital nursing? What do they describe as factors influencing their moral values and ethical roles in hospital nursing? Preserving moral integrity was the basic psycho-social process that explained how these new graduate nurses adapted to the real world of hospital nursing. Six stages of this process were identified: vulnerability; getting through the day; coping with moral distress; alienation from self; coping with lost ideals; and integration of new professional self-concept. Moral distress was a consequence of the effort to preserve moral integrity. It is the result of believing that one is not living up to one’s moral convictions. Data supported that the most pervasive attributes of moral distress were self-criticism and self-blame, as informants judged their actions against their moral convictions and their standards of what a good nurse would do. Moral distress was an acute form of psychological disorientation in which informants questioned their professional knowledge, what kind of nurses they were and what kind of nurses they were becoming. Theoretical explanations of these findings are grounded in social interaction and moral psychology theories.