The Use of Debriefing Sessions in Emergency Room Nurses Experiencing Moral Distress

Student Author(s)

Cailyn TenHoeve

Faculty Mentor(s)

Professor Donna Garrett, MSN, RN, Hope College Department of Nursing, Alison Zeerip, MSN, RN, CPNP, Mercy Health Saint Mary’s

Document Type


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Moral distress has been widely studied in certain areas of the healthcare field, such as critical care or oncology units. Less is known about this phenomenon in emergency departments. The purpose of this study was to determine whether debriefing sessions help reduce the amount of moral distress in emergency room nurses. Epstein and Hamric’s framework for the crescendo effect will be used as a foundation for this study. A convenience sample of emergency department nurses at an inner city, Midwestern hospital will be asked to complete a self-administered, online survey before and after a group debriefing session within two days of a stressful patient encounter. The Moral Distress Survey Revised (MDS-R) by Ann Hamric will be used to determine if the nurses’ degree of moral distress decreased after the debriefing session. Data will be analyzed using SPSSv22 and paired t-tests will be conducted to compare pre and post scores. Implications of the study include providing a debriefing session after stressful patient encounters for all care providers in the ED. Limitations of this study include the small sample size and a single site survey. Further research needs to be conducted on other interventions in the future. Results and conclusions are pending.


This research was supported by Mercy Health Saint Mary’s

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