Faculty members Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, FAAN and Renee Boss, MD, are editors of a narrative symposium in Narrative Inquiry in Bioethics. The symposium, “The Many Faces of Moral Distress Among Clinicians,” is a collection of personal stories written by clinicians in various disciplines, recounting experiences of moral distress that affected their work, and sometimes personal life as well.

Rushton and Boss developed a call for stories that asked inter–professional healthcare providers to: identify specific clinical situations that give rise to moral distress; discuss the sources of this distress; reflect on how they experienced moral distress—physically, psychologically, socially, or spiritually; assess how they managed their situations; and offer suggestions for avoiding future problems of a similar nature. Twelve stories are found in the print version of the journal and an additional eight supplemental stories are published online only through Project MUSE.

In their introduction to the symposium, Rushton and Boss say that the affects of moral distress may not be what you expect: “Although most emotional responses to moral distress are cast as negative emotions, positive emotions of gratitude, acceptance, and love are also conveyed.”

Clinicians themselves, Rushton and Boss are no strangers to the issues discussed in the symposium. Boss is a physician in the neonatal intensive care unit at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center. She is an author of the forthcoming article “Death at the Beginning,” to be published in the Oxford Handbook on Death and Dying, and has done public outreach on the subject as well.

Rushton, the Anne and George L. Bunting Professor of Clinical Ethics, is an recognized expert in the ethics of palliative and end-of-life care in addition to clinician moral distress and suffering, speaking widely domestically and internationally on the subjects.  In the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Palliative Medicine, Rushton was first author of a pair of articles proposing a framework for understanding moral distress among palliative care clinicians.

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Leah Ramsay

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