Moral Distress Of Nurses Surrounding Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: Application Of A Theoretical Framework

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Amber Welborn PhD, RN, Assistant Professor (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
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Abstract: Topic: Neonatal nurses who care for infants with symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) may experience moral distress through conflicting professional ethics. The nurse may find it difficult to simultaneously exemplify beneficence and nonmaleficence. Objective: The purpose of this paper is to explore the moral distress of nurses in the context of infants experiencing symptoms of NAS and apply a new conceptual model to this phenomenon. Understanding how nurses navigate moral dilemmas may provide insight into strategies to better support them to address moral conflict. Methods: Moral distress was explored in the context of nurses who care for infants with symptoms of NAS. A literature review was completed, followed by the application of the model onto the derived themes. Results: The theoretical application resulted in a framework that exemplifies the experience of caring for infants with symptoms of NAS and their families described by many nurses within the literature. If moral distress is not resolved, negative outcomes may be experienced by the nurse, with additional negative outcomes experienced by the family. Conclusion: This theoretical model provided insight into the experience of moral distress surrounding nursing care for infants with symptoms of NAS. Additional research is needed to investigate moral residue and moral resilience in this particular caregiving dynamic.

Additional Information

Welborn, A. Moral distress of nurses surrounding neonatal abstinence syndrome: Application of a theoretical framework. Nurs Forum. 2019; 54: 499-504. Publisher version of record available at:
Language: English
Date: 2019
ethics, moral courage, maternal-child health, models/frameworks, professional issues, theory

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