School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


Sarah Pannone


nursing students, moral distress, COVID-19, pandemic, caring, novice


Education | Nursing


The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the phenomenon of moral distress on nursing students who engaged in clinical experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This research study was supported by Jean Watson’s theory of human caring (Watson, 2006) as it explained the relationship between a nursing students’ provision of care and the moral dilemma and potential moral distress related to threats to that care. This study was also presented within the conceptual framework of Patricia Benner’s model from novice to expert (Benner, 1984). Within this framework, the nursing student as novice may not have the skills or experience necessary to adequately deal with care related stressors, and therefore may be at higher risk for developing moral distress. This study was guided by the central research question: As described by participants, what is the lived experience of moral distress for nursing student’s during the COVID-19 pandemic? Participants were nursing students enrolled in a program of study enabling the participant to sit for the registered nurse state examination, and who had engaged in clinical nursing experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. Data collection was via interview, journal entries, and artifact documents in the form of photographs or images with accompanying explanatory text. Five themes emerged from data analysis: compromised caring, mixed messages, personal perceptions, coping during COVID-19, and fearful future. Implications from findings were discussed, and recommendations for policy, practice, and future study were provided.