Moral Distress: A Framework for Offering Relief through Debrief

Shilpa Shashidhara and Shaylona Kirk



Moral distress, if left unaddressed, leads to a number of harmful emotions and behaviors that take a toll on the personal and professional well-being of healthcare workers. In this article, a clinical case is used to illustrate a moral distress debriefing framework that can be utilized by clinical ethicists and healthcare professionals with the appropriate skill set. The first part of the framework is preparatory; it includes guidance on how to identify the needs of healthcare providers, set goals for a debriefing session, gather relevant information, and plan the logistics of the meeting. The second part of the framework is implemental; it outlines an eight-step method to conduct the session from beginning to end. It describes how to constructively reflect on the experience, explore emotional responses, share coping strategies, and identify take-aways for future positive outcomes. This framework can be used to empower healthcare team members to deal with moral distress and be better equipped to handle challenging situation.


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