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Moral distress in veterinarians
  1. Alejandra I Arbe Montoya1,
  2. Susan Hazel1,
  3. Susan M Matthew2 and
  4. Michelle L McArthur1
  1. 1 Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, South Australia, Australia
  2. 2 College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington, USA
  1. Correspondence to MsAlejandra IArbe Montoya, Animal and Veterinary Sciences, The University of Adelaide, Roseworthy, SA 5371, Australia; alejandra.arbemontoya{at}


Moral distress is a psychological state of anguish that has been widely studied in healthcare professionals. Experiencing moral distress can lead to problems including avoidance of patients and increased staff turnover. Moral distress in veterinarians has not yet been explored to the extent seen in the human medical field, and there is limited data regarding moral distress in veterinarians. However, it is expected to be prevalent in these professionals. So far, it has been reported that veterinarians commonly experience moral conflict, ethical challenges and ethical dilemmas during their career. These conflicts in association with other modifying factors such as personality traits can lead to the experience of moral distress. In a profession with known levels of occupational stress and reported mental health problems, exploring the area of moral distress and its effects on the professional wellbeing of veterinarians is important. Further studies such as developing a moral distress scale to measure this issue are needed in order to evaluate the incidence of this problem in veterinary professionals. Furthermore, assessing a possible relationship between moral distress, mental illness and attrition in veterinarians would be useful in developing intervention strategies to minimise the experience of moral distress and its associated negative consequences in veterinarians.

  • veterinary profession
  • stress
  • ethics
  • moral distress
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  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not applicable.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement There are no data in this work.

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