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Faculty and staff

Mary C. Corley, PhD, RN

Associate Professor Emerita
P.O. Box 980567
Richmond, VA 23298-0567
E-mail: mccorley@vcu.edu


  • Ph.D. - University of Kentucky
  • M.A. - University of Kentucky
  • M.S.N - Catholic University
  • B.S.N - Marquette University

Research Focus

The major focus of my research is moral distress among nurses. Interest in this topic occurred while conducting a Congressionally Mandated Study on Nurse Recruitment and Retention in the Veterans Administration in the early 1980’s. Findings using the first version of the Moral Distress Scale were published in 1995. The Moral Distress Scale was adapted to reflect changes in delivery of health care and a report of ethical problems nurses reported in an ANA study in the early 1990’s. Recently the Moral Distress Scale has been revised and interested investigators are advised to contact me (mccorley@vcu.edu) for further information.

Academic Appointments and Other Significant Work Experience

  • 8/01-present Consultant, Moral Distress Research Projects
  • 4/05-6/07 Virginia Commonwealth University, part time appointment, Program Coordinator, Post Masters Certificate in Nursing Education
  • 8/01-present Virginia Commonwealth University, Associate Professor, Emeritus
  • 7/93-8/2001 Virginia Commonwealth University. Associate Professor.
  • 8/86-6/93 Virginia Commonwealth University. Assistant Professor.
  • 6/85-8/86 Veterans Administration, Seattle WA. Associate Chief, Nursing Service for Research
  • 1/86-7/86 University of Washington, Seattle WA. Adjunct Faculty in Physiological Nursing.
  • 5/84-6/85 Veterans Administration, Richmond VA. Associate Chief, Nursing Service for Research..
  • 6/81-6/84 Veterans Administration, Washington, D.C. Project Director of VA Recruitment and Retention Study.
  • 1/81-6/85 Virginia Commonwealth University, Clinical Associate in Medical-Surgical Nursing
  • 11/74-6/81 Veterans Administration, Richmond, VA. Nurse Researcher.
  • 4/75-5/76 Virginia Commonwealth University. Adjunct Faculty Appointment, Department of Sociology
  • 9/70-1/71 Virginia Commonwealth University. Instructor
  • 6/72-8/72 Virginia Commonwealth University, Instructor
  • 5/69-7/69 Veterans Administration, Lexington, KY. Staff nurse
  • 5/68-7/68 Veterans Administration, Lexington, KY. Staff nurse.
  • 9/63-9/67 Medical College of Virginia School of Nursing. Assistant Professor. g.
  • 6/63-9/63 Private Duty Nurse. Provided care to patient dying of malignancy.
  • 6/62-9/62 Georgetown University Hospital, Washington, D.C. Staff Nurse.
  • 9/60-9/61 Milwaukee Health Department, Milwaukee, WI. Public Health Nurse.


  • Corley, M., Minick, P., Elswick, R.K., & Jacobs, M. (2005). Nurse moral distress and ethical work environment. Nursing Ethics, 12, 381-390.
  • Corley, M. (2002). Nurse moral distress: A proposed theory and research agenda. Nursing Ethics, 9 (6), 636-650.
    Corley, M. & Minick, P. (2002). Moral distress or moral comfort. Midwest Bioethics Forum, 18 (1/2), 7-13.
  • Corley, M., Elswick, R.K., Gorman, M., & Clor, T. (2001). Development and evaluation of a moral distress scale. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 33, 250-256.
    (Reprinted in Neonatal Intensive Care, 14(4): 51-58.)
  • Corley, M., & Jacobs, M. (2000). Patient satisfaction with participation in decision making. Nursing Administrative Quarterly, 24(20), 83-86.
  • Corley, M.C., & Goren, S. (1998). The dark side of nursing: Impact of stigmatizing responses on patients. Scholarly Inquiry for Nursing Practice, 12(2), 99-118.
  • Corley, M.C. (1998). Ethical dimensions of nurse-physician relations in critical care. Nursing Clinics of North American, 33, 323-337.
  • Corley, M.C. (1998). Caring: Nurses, women and ethics. Bioethically Speaking, 6, (1), 5, 7. (Book review).
  • Corley, M.C. (1995). Moral distress of critical care nurses. American Journal of Critical Care, 4, 280-285.
  • Corley, M.C., & Selig, P. (1994). Prevalence of principled thinking by critical care nurses. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing. 13:96-103.
  • Corley, M.C., & Raines, D.A. (1993). Environments that support ethical nursing practice. AWHONN's Clinical Issues, 4, 611-619.
  • Corley, M.C., & Raines, D. (1993). Creating a work environment for ethical nursing practice. Nursing Administration Quarterly, 17(2):68-74.
  • Corley, M.C., Selig, P., & Ferguson, C. (1993). Critical care nurse participation in ethical and work decisions. Critical Care Nurse. (June), 120-127.
  • Corley, M.C., & Mauksch, H. (1993). The nurse's multiple commitments. Journal of Professional Nursing. 9, (2):116-122.
  • Corley, M.C. (1992). Using the Nursing Dilemma Test to Measure Moral Reasoning. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 14, 381-389.
  • Corley, M.C. (1992). The ethical case analysis: Heroic measures for patients with chronic problems; Part II: Ethical Analysis. Dimensions in Critical Care Nursing, 11(1)36-40.

External Grants

  • Partnerships in Quality Education, Harvard Pilgrim Group, Robert Wood Foundation, July 2000 to July 2002, $30,000
  • American Organization of Nurse Executives. The Relationship of Ethical Environment, Nurse Moral Distress, and Patient Participation in Decision Making. December 1997, Funded February 1998, $9,000.
  • Sigma Theta Tau, Gamma Omega Chapter, 1990, $200
  • P.I. VA Health Service Research and Development Grant, 10/85-10/86, ($19,500
  • P.I., VA Recruitment and Retention of Nurses 1981-1984 ($350,000)