The issue of moral distress in community pharmacy practice: background and research agenda

Jayne L. Astbury, Cathal T. Gallagher, Richard O'Neill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Moral distress arises from situations in which the individual identifies the morally right action required, but feels unable to act accordingly due to organisational constraints within the work place. Research into this phenomenon has focused predominately on the experience of those in the nursing profession, due to its perceived moral grounding and its traditionally subordinate role. As the conceptual boundaries of moral distress have developed, so too has the research interest in the experiences of other professional groups. Here, we seek to determine if there is scope to study moral distress in pharmacists.METHODS: A review of the literature on moral distress in healthcare professions was undertaken.KEY FINDINGS: Pharmacists working in the UK operate within a highly-regulated occupational sphere, and are bound by strict legal frameworks and codes of professional conduct. This regulatory environment, when combined with the emerging recognition that pharmacy is a value-based profession with a strong ethical grounding, creates the potential for moral distress to occur due to the limitations placed on acting in congruence with ethical judgements. Studies concerning moral distress in nurses have identified significant negative consequences for both the practitioner and for the quality of patient care.CONCLUSIONS: To date, the incidence of moral distress among UK-based community pharmacists remains unexamined. Research must be undertaken to determine what situations cause the highest instances of moral distress for community pharmacists, and the extent to which these pharmacists experience moral distress in their working lives.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)361-366
JournalInternational Journal of Pharmacy Practice (IJPP)
Issue number5
Early online date2 Feb 2015
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2015


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