Kiwi nurses are considering quitting their profession as they struggle to deal with moral issues beyond their control, a new study reveals.
A Massey University School of Health study has found almost 50% of 400 hospital-based nurses said they had considered leaving their job after experiencing moral distress in their job.
Nursing ethics and education expert Dr Martin Woods said the results were a disturbing indication of New Zealand's nursing profession.
The study revealed 16% of nurses were currently considering leaving their clinical position.
"It shows moral distress is a reality nurses are struggling with - and they are really struggling," said Woods.
"Stories of burnout and leaving not just a given position but nursing itself must be taken seriously."
Some of the moral dilemmas facing nurses included carrying out doctor's orders when they believed it was unnecessary for the patient's well-being, and prolonging the dying process by initiating life-saving actions.
Trying to deliver adequate care in the face of cost-cutting measures and working with other health care workers who may not have been able to adequately care for a patient was also cause for concern.
Nearly 90% of nurses surveyed experienced a moderate or high degree of moral distress when having to work with nurses and other health care workers they perceived to be unsafe.
One participant in the survey stated they were considering leaving the job they "generally" enjoyed because of a lack of support from management.
"I am considering leaving the job that I generally enjoy due to the lack of leadership and pressures from management to accept more numbers of patients or patients with high acuity of care with no increase in resources.
Woods hopes the study will prompt health care providers to implement adequate guidelines to help nurses deal with moral stress which could lead to depression and burnout.
The study also found younger nurses, aged 25-34, experienced higher moral distress than other age groups.