Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

Moral injury (MI) refers to the persisting distress which may occur following exposure to potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs). The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to MI in healthcare workers, who have been found to experience more frequent PMIEs in their day-to-day work than those in other occupational groups such as the military. These events may occur on an individual, team, organizational or system level and have been associated with increased clinician burnout and distress, and poor psychological wellbeing. This paper focuses on healthcare workers' experiences of MI, including potential causes and ways to reduce them. There are myriad challenges that influence the development of MI, such as chronic understaffing and the pressure to treat high numbers of patients with limited resources. There are also multiple impacts of MI: at the individual-level, MI can lead to increased staff absences and understaffing, and prolonged patient contact with limited decision-making power. COVID-19 exacerbated such impacts, with a lack of organizational support during a time of increased patient mortality, and uncertainty and heightened pressure on the clinical frontline associated with scarce resources and understaffing. Potential methods for reduction of MI in healthcare workers include pre-exposure mitigation, such as fostering work environments which treat PMIEs in the same way as other occupational hazards and post-exposure mitigation, such as facilitating healthcare workers to process their experiences of PMIEs in peer support groups or with spiritual advisors and, if MI is associated with mental ill-health, talking therapies using trauma-focused and compassion-oriented frameworks.

Original publication




Journal article


J Healthc Leadersh

Publication Date





153 - 160


causes, effects, healthcare workers, mitigation, moral injury, pandemic, prevention, treatment