Veterinary professionals’ experiences of moral injury: A qualitative study
Williamson V., Murphy D., Greenberg N.
Background: Exposure to potentially morally injurious events (PMIE) has been found to be associated with negative mental health outcomes. Veterinary professionals (VPs) often experience challenging workplace events, but whether they experience PMIEs and the impact of exposure on their wellbeing is poorly understood. The objective of the study was to explore UK VPs experiences of PMIEs, the impact of PMIEs on VPs' wellbeing and beliefs about factors that influence VPs' exposure to PMIEs. Methods: Ten VPs were recruited. Semi-structured interviews were carried out, and data were analysed using thematic analysis. Results: VPs were found to experience PMIEs, including transgressive acts of commission or omission (e.g., being involved in or witnessing convenience euthanasia) or betrayal by trusted colleagues (e.g., bullying). Experiences of PMIEs evoked considerable psychological distress, including guilt, shame and loss of confidence in one's abilities. Several risk factors for experiencing psychological distress following a PMIE were described. Conclusions: This study provides some of the first evidence that VPs may be vulnerable to moral injury and illustrates the impact that PMIEs may have on VPs' wellbeing. Limitations: Future studies are needed to design and evaluate effective pathways for the prevention of and intervention for VPs who experience moral injury.