Validation of an instrument to measure moral distress within the Australian residential and community care environments
Aim and objectives
The aim of this study was to gain insight into the experience of moral distress within the aged care workforce. The objective of this study was to use and validate an existing instrument to measure moral distress within the aged care setting.
Moral distress, a phenomenon associated with worker satisfaction and retention, is common within nursing. Instruments to measure moral distress exist; however, there are no validated instruments to measure moral distress within an aged care setting.
Design and method
An existing instrument, the Moral Distress Scale (Revised) was identified and amended. Amendments were subject to expert review for face and content validity. Data were collected from aged care nurses working in residential and community aged care, in Australia. Reliability was assessed using Cronbach's alpha with exploratory factor analysis undertaken for construct validity.
106 participants completed the survey, 93 (87.7%) identified as female and 13 (12.3%) male. Participants ranged in age from 21 to 73 years, with a mean time working in nursing of 20.6 years. The frequency component of the instrument demonstrated an alpha of 0.89, the intensity component 0.95 and the instrument as a whole 0.94. Three factors were identified and labelled as: Quality of Care, Capacity of Team and Professional Practice. Mean scores indicate a low occurrence of moral distress, but this distress, when experienced, was felt with a moderate level of intensity. Primary causes of moral distress were insufficient staff competency levels, poor quality care because of poor communication and delays in implementing palliation.
The instrument demonstrates validity and reliability within the Australian aged care setting. Further analysis with larger populations is required to support these findings.
Implications for practice
Australian aged care workers do experience moral distress. They suffer adverse consequences of this distress and quality of care is negatively impacted. This newly validated instrument can be used to quantify the occurrence of moral distress and to inform targeted interventions to reduce the occurrence and intensity of the experience.