Working environment of pharmacists can create ‘moral distress’

A review finds that pharmacists operate within a highly-regulated environment that creates the potential for moral distress to occur. In the image, pharmacist in a dispensary

Moral distress arises when an individual identifies the morally right action required but feels unable to act due to legal or contractual constraints. Research into this phenomenon has focused predominately on nurses.

Researchers led by Cathal Gallager from the department of pharmacy at the University of Hertfordshire in the UK have examined whether there is scope to study moral distress in pharmacists. Their literature review, published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice
, found that pharmacists operate within a highly-regulated environment, and are bound by strict legal frameworks and codes of professional conduct. This, combined with pharmacy having a strong ethical grounding, creates the potential for moral distress to occur.

The researchers now want to determine which situations cause the highest instances of moral distress for community pharmacists.


[1] Astbury J L, Gallagher CT & O’Neill RC. The issue of moral distress in community pharmacy practice: background and research agenda. International Journal of Pharmacy Practice 2015. doi: 10.1111/ijpp.12174.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 28 February 2015, Vol 294, No 7851;294(7851):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20067956

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