A concept analysis of moral resilience

Peter D. Young, Cynthia H Rushton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Nurses experience moral distress, which has led to emotional distress, frustration, anger, and nurse attrition. Overcoming moral distress has become a significant focus in nursing research. Purpose: The continued focus on moral distress has not produced sustainable solutions within the nursing profession. Since positive language may alter the outcomes of morally distressing situations, we look to better understand one such positive phrase, moral resilience. Methods: We explored moral resilience through a literature search using 11 databases to identify instances of the phrase. Occurrences of moral resilience were then divided into three distinct categories: antecedents, attributes, and consequences, and following this, major themes within each category were identified. Discussion: There is a dearth of scholarship on moral resilience, and additionally, there is currently no unifying definition. Despite this, our analysis offers promising direction in refining the concept. Conclusion: This concept analysis reveals differences in how moral resilience is understood. More conceptual work is needed to refine the definition of moral resilience and understand how the concept is useful in mitigating the negative consequences of moral distress and other types of moral adversity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalNursing Outlook
StateAccepted/In press - Oct 3 2016


  • Moral adversity
  • Moral complexity
  • Moral distress
  • Moral resilience

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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