Moral Distress: Building Resilience and Preventing Burnout

HealthcareMental HealthProvider Communication SkillsSuicide Prevention

Healthcare providers strive to deliver the best care they can, when that’s not possible they experience moral distress. The stressors of the pandemic have multiplied the causes of moral distress, with many providers now on the brink of burnout or already leaving the profession. Experiencing moral distress is inevitable for healthcare providers, but burnout doesn’t have to be. Kognito’s new course, Moral Distress & Resilience can help providers process their experience to address moral distress, which achieves the objectives of a new grant from HHS.

Moral distress — first described by Andrew Jameton, PhD as “knowing the right thing to do but being in a situation in which it is nearly impossible to do it” — is a complex and challenging issue too often ignored.

Care providers across multiple disciplines can face challenging circumstances where they are unable to do what they know or believe to be right. For example, a patient’s family may ignore the provider’s recommendation who must then watch the patient suffer, knowing that they could help but feeling powerless to do so.

These tragic, yet all too common, situations exceeding the reach of healthcare professionals’ control can take an emotional and physical toll. Repetitive and unaddressed moral distress can cause physical symptoms such as headaches, palpitations, gastric upset, loss of sleep, and psychological manifestations such as anger, guilt, frustration, withdrawal and depression. Moral distress has been linked to poor retention and job satisfaction, and healthcare employers and educators see a need to confront the issue, which has been heightened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Building moral resilience and prioritizing self-care can help mitigate the issue, but confronting moral distress begins with education. Training healthcare teams in identifying and addressing this critical issue can help prevent burnout, fatigue, and preserve healthcare professionals’ compassion and drive to continue serving patients.

Coming Soon: Kognito’s Moral Distress and Resilience Course

Kognito’s Moral Distress & Resilience course (coming in December 2021!) will help learners recognize when they are experiencing moral distress and take appropriate steps to address it.

Through immersive interactive practice, learners build the skills and confidence to support their peer care team members in distress, helping ensure healthcare providers are getting the help they need.

Learners meet Joseph Hilliard, PhD, a bioethics expert in moral distress. Having served as a healthcare provider for many years, Dr. Hilliard recounts his own journey and personal experiences of moral distress—and serves as an instructor and coach for learners throughout the course.

In the simulation, Dr. Hilliard teaches learners the foundational concepts of moral distress:

  • Defining moral distress and ways to identify it
  • Immediate and long-term consequences of moral distress
  • Techniques for addressing moral distress, and building resilience
  • Supporting peers
  • Engaging leadership

Then, it’s time to practice.

Learners assume the role of Devon, a member of the healthcare team, and talk with Rashad, a colleague who is venting frustrations with staffing shortages that are making his job more difficult and less safe. Users practice supporting Rashad and redirecting the conversation in a productive manner. Can a collaborative plan be developed to address Rashad’s valid concerns?

In the next conversation, learners assume the role of Rashad who takes his concerns to Marsha, his care team leader. Users practice presenting the issue in a professional manner and seek assistance to address the underlying issues contributing to Rashad’s distress. Can Rashad effectively communicate his issues to Marsha and arrive at a course of action that will help alleviate his distress?

Learning communication strategies through practice-based learning with virtual humans is engaging and effective. Skills like empathy can be gained through these valuable virtual experiences, and 90% of users rate Kognito simulations as very good or excellent.

Recently Announced Grant Can Help Support Moral Distress Training

The 2022 Health and Public Safety Workforce Resiliency Training Program (HPSWRTP) Grant was announced in July. This grant is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ American Rescue Plan, which aims to reduce burnout and promote mental health among the healthcare workforce.

As a health simulation company that offers online experiential training in behavioral health, the implementation of our upcoming Moral Distress and Resiliency course can help support objectives of the HPSWRTP program. See how the simulation maps to the grant requirements here, and refer to the chart to simplify your application process.

Experience the Power of Virtual Simulation

If your educational or healthcare institution is committed to helping health professionals build the resiliency to deal with moral distress and continue delivering the best care possible for patients, we’d love for you to learn more about Kognito’s new simulation. Click here to get on our waitlist to access the demo once available and see the power of simulation in action.