How Do Deployed Health Care Providers Experience Moral Injury?


Combat deployments put health care providers in ethically compromising and morally challenging situations. A sample of recently deployed nurses and physicians provided narratives that were analyzed to better appreciate individual perceptions of moral dilemmas that arise in combat. Specific questions to be answered by this inquiry are: 1) How do combat deployed nurses and physicians make sense of morally injurious traumatic exposures? and 2) What are the possible psychosocial consequences of these and other deployment stressors? This narrative inquiry involves analysis of ten deployed military nurses’ and physicians’ aversive or traumatic experiences. Burke’s dramatist pentad is used for structural narrative analysis of stories that confirm and illuminate the impact of war zone events such as betrayal, disproportionate violence, incidents involving civilians, and within-rank violence on military health care provider narrators. Results indicate cognitive dissonance and psychosocial sequelae related to moral and psychological stressors faced by military medical personnel. Discussion addresses where healing efforts should be focused.