AJN, American Journal of Nursing:
February 2017 - Volume 117 - Issue 2 - p S7–S10
Moral distress arises when nurses are unable to act according to their moral judgment. The concept is relatively recent, dating to American ethicist Andrew Jameton's 1984 landmark text on nursing ethics. Until that point, distress among clinicians had been understood primarily through psychological concepts such as stress and burnout, which, although relevant, were not sufficient. With the introduction of the concept of moral distress, Jameton added an ethical dimension to the study of distress.
In the 33 years since Jameton's inaugural work, many nurses, inspired by the concept of moral distress, have continued to explore what happens when nurses are constrained from translating moral choice into moral action, and are consequently unable to uphold their sense of integrity and the values emphasized in the American Nurses Association's Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements. Moral distress might occur when, say, a nurse on a busy acute medical unit can't provide comfort and supportive care to a dying patient because of insufficient staffing.
The article is here.