EXPERIENCES AND IMPACT OF MORAL INJURY IN UK VETERINARY PROFESSIONAL WELLBEING
V. Williamson, King’s College London, UK
Veterinary professionals (VPs) are often exposed to distressing and ethically challenging events in their line of work, yet little is known about whether they may experience moral injury and the impact potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs) may have on their wellbeing. This study aimed to examine the association between PMIEs and the mental health outcomes of UK VPs.
Assessments of PMIE exposure and self-report measures of common mental disorders were administered using an anonymous online questionnaire to 90 UK VPs between December 2020-May 2021. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 10 VPs.
Exposure to PMIEs were reported by almost all VPs (89.0%), with acts of omission most frequently reported. Experiences of PMIEs were significantly associated with symptoms of PTSD (p<0.01) and the likelihood of meeting PTSD criteria was greatest in those VPs exposed to betrayal and perpetration events. Experiences of PMIEs evoked considerable psychological distress, including guilt, shame and loss of confidence in one’s abilities. Several risk factors for experiencing psychological distress following a PMIE were described.
This study provides some of the first evidence that experiences of moral injury are significantly associated with adverse mental health outcomes in VPs. Future work is needed to design effective pathways for prevention and intervention for VPs exposed to highly challenging events.