This Is AuburnElectronic Theses and Dissertations

Ethical Dilemmas and Moral Distress in Veterinary Support Staff




Kramper, Sharon

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation


Psychological Sciences

Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



In medicine, clinical scenarios arise that require practitioners to balance conflicting professional obligations. These ethical dilemmas can cause moral distress, which is defined as knowing the right thing to do but being unable to do it. Moral distress contributes to burnout and the intention to leave a job. Ethical dilemmas and moral distress have been explored in veterinarians but not for other veterinary team members, such as veterinary technicians, technologists, and assistants. Quantitative and qualitative methods were employed to determine how frequently veterinary support staff (N = 174) are exposed to ethical dilemmas, to characterize the types of ethical dilemmas, and to measure moral distress. Median frequency of exposure to ethical dilemmas was a few times a year. Participants reported experiencing conflict related to patient care and related to witnessing or participating in unethical acts. Interventions targeted at increasing moral agency and building moral community may effectively reduce employee attrition.