It is well-known that war veterans experience long-lasting physical and psychological injuries following their deployment, and recent studies have proposed the construct of moral injury (MI) to explain the moral and spiritual effects of war on individuals. Litz et al. (2009) defined MI as "perpetrating, failing to prevent, or bearing witness to acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs and expectations" (p. 6), and Drescher et al. (2011) interviewed trauma experts to identify types of events that could create MI and the lasting sequelae of these events. Vargas et al. (2013) provided validation of MI by examining male Vietnam veterans' self-reported effects of combat participation and found themes of MI events and symptoms consistent with those found by Drescher et al. (2011). However, current research on MI has focused solely on male veterans, despite the fact that women have served in the military since colonial times, most often as nurses. Therefore, it is yet unknown whether the current definition of MI applies to warzone nurses. To expand the current understanding of MI to deployed female nurses, this qualitative study identified signs and symptoms of MI as reported by 100 randomly selected female veterans who served in the Vietnam War from the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS). Major themes identified by coders were compared to those previously identified, and results suggest that nurses in Vietnam experienced symptoms of MI consistent with those previously identified in male combat veterans and at a higher rate.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Dissertations (PsyD) -- Psychology; War -- Moral and ethical aspects; Vietnam War, 1961-1975 -- Veterans -- Mental health; Women veterans -- United States.

Date of Award


School Affiliation

Graduate School of Education and Psychology



Degree Type


Degree Name


Faculty Advisor

de Mayo, Robert R.;