July 25, 2023

Pandemic experiences of infections preventionists resulted in moral distress

Editor's Note

This study, led by nurse researchers at the College of Nursing, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, explores the experiences of infection preventionists (IPs) during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Responses from 61 IPs surveyed were included in the analysis.

Among the findings:

  • The initial phases of COVID-19 was a time of clinical uncertainty, and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) required a shift away from the evidence-based practices known to IPs.
  • IPs were challenged to deliver rapidly changing guidelines about PPE use across their institutions that contradicted best practices, and they had to rewrite practice protocols to reflect guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Relaying these guidelines to front line staff, who were frustrated with the changes and questioned their validity, contributed to the experience of moral distress among IPs—63.9% reported they experienced moral distress during the peak of the pandemic.
  • Over the course of the pandemic, IPs developed strong teams and felt their expertise was recognized and received validation publicly and throughout their institutions.

The researchers note that future research should look at how IPs can improve hospital preparedness for future pandemics and healthcare crises.


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