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'Against everything that got you into the job': experiences of potentially morally injurious events among Canadian public safety personnel.

Background: Moral injury (MI) has become a research and organizational priority as frontline personnel have, both during and in the years preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, raised concerns about repeated expectations to make choices that transgress their deeply held morals, values, and beliefs. As awareness of MI grows, so, too, does attention on its presence and impacts in related occupations such as those in public safety, given that codes of conduct, morally and ethically complex decisions, and high-stakes situations are inherent features of such occupations. Objective: This paper shares the results of a study of the presence of potentially morally injurious events (PMIEs) in the lived experiences of 38 public safety personnel (PSP) in Ontario, Canada. Method: Through qualitative interviews, this study explored the types of events PSP identify as PMIEs, how PSP make sense of these events, and the psychological, professional, and interpersonal impacts of these events. Thematic analysis supported the interpretation of PSP descriptions of events and experiences. Results: PMIEs do arise in the context of PSP work, namely during the performance of role-specific responsibilities, within the organizational climate, and because of inadequacies in the broader healthcare system. PMIEs are as such because they violate core beliefs commonly held by PSP and compromise their ability to act in accordance with the principles that motivate them in their work. PSP associate PMIEs, in combination with traumatic experiences and routine stress, with adverse psychological, professional and personal outcomes. Conclusion: The findings provide additional empirical evidence to the growing literature on MI in PSP, offering insight into the contextual dimensions that contribute to the sources and effects of PMIEs in diverse frontline populations as well as support for the continued application and exploration of MI in the PSP context.

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