Amid COVID-19 pandemic, rates of ‘moral harm’ among healthcare workers similar to combat veterans | 2022-05-15

Durham, North Carolina — Rates of “moral harm” experienced by healthcare workers in the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic were similar to those of US military veterans, study results show recent.

Researchers from Duke University, Vanderbilt University and the Department of Veterans Affairs define a “moral injury” as an attack on a person’s identity or conscience after witnessing, causing or omitting prevent acts contrary to their own moral standards.

For their study, the researchers looked at data from the Post-Deployment Mental Health Moral Injury Study, which involved more than 600 military veterans deployed to combat zones after 9/11. Veterans were interviewed by telephone between April 2015 and February 2019. Nearly 3,000 healthcare workers were gathered Healthcare Worker Exposure Outcomes and Response Registry (HERO). Workers responded to an online survey in March 2021.

Results show that 51% of healthcare workers and 46% of military veterans indicated that they were troubled by the immoral behavior of others, while 24% of veterans and 18% of healthcare workers were bothered by the violation. of their own morals and values. .

Experiences among healthcare workers that conflicted with their moral values ​​included witnessing patient deaths and public disregard for preventing COVID-19 transmission, persistent staff shortages, rationing of care and personal protective equipment, and health care facilities enforcing policies that did not. allow visitors to see dying patients.

Among both groups, those who suffered potential moral harm suffered from more depression and a lower quality of life. Healthcare professionals also reported higher levels of burnout.

“Burnout is often discussed, and it’s real,” study co-author Emily O’Brien, an associate professor in Duke’s Department of Population Health Sciences, said in a press release. . “For many, however, I suspect hurt feelings are a more accurate description of their experience, and that has implications for what we do now and in the future.”

The study’s lead author Jason Nieuwsma, a researcher at Duke and the VA, added, “It’s sobering to see how many healthcare workers are morally troubled due to their work experiences during the pandemic. . This can help us understand some of the current challenges facing health care systems across the country.

The study was published online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

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