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Ethics Conference


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The Ethics of Moral Injury, Moral Distress

and Moral Courage in Social Work Practice


Friday, March 20, 2020


Jane S. McKimmon Center, 1101 Gorman St, Raleigh, NC


NASW Member: $109

Not yet a member: $179


5.75 Hours of Ethics CE

Moral injury is defined as the sort of harm that results when someone has perpetrated, failed to prevent, or witnessed acts that transgress deeply held moral beliefs, an issue rarely addressed in traditional ethics education. Moral distress occurs in social work practice when a social worker encounters an ethical dilemma resulting from a conflict between institutional policies and what the social worker believes is the right course of action. Knowing what is right does not necessarily mean that social workers will do what is right. Often, it takes significant moral courage to do the right thing. Moral courage refers the virtue of having the strength to do what is right in the face of opposition.


This conference will address the ethics of moral injury, moral distress and moral courage in social work practice and how social workers can address each in their own practice.



7:30-8:15am  Registration - Please take this time to visit with our exhibitors


8:15-8:30am Welcome and Announcements


8:30-9:00am  Professional Disillusionment & Ethical Practice

Ravita T. Omabu Okafor, MSW, LCSW

At intermittent times across the career cycle, social workers find themselves experiencing disillusionment that impacts professional performance. Through this presentation, Ravita will offer ways to identify and manage weighty feelings not associated with impairment or incompetence so social workers offer professional skills that safeguard the helping environment.

Ravita T. Omabu Okafor, MSW, LCSW practices psychotherapy with children, adolescents, and adults through her private practice in Knightdale, NC. As Chair of NASW-NC’s Chapter Ethics Committee and an Editorial Board member for the Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, Ravita provides ethical consultation to NASW-NC members, presents seminars on ethics-related topics, submits quarterly columns for the NASW-NC newsletter, and reviews ethics articles for publication.


9:00-10:00am Moral Injury: A New Paradigm for an Age-old Problem

Dr. Jason Nieuwsma

This presentation will identify the main theoretical and practical definitions of Moral Injury and its relationship to trauma,describing the risks for social workers who are responding to moral injury both as providers of service and in their own lives as workers. We’ll cover the similarities and differences between PTSD and Moral Injury. Then Dr. Nieuwsma will share assessment tools to screen for moral injury that will help social workers understand mainstream, complementary and alternative approaches to helping those who live with Moral Injury.

Dr. Jason Nieuwsma is a clinical psychologist who is an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Duke University Medical Center and who serves as the Associate Director for VA Mental Health and Chaplaincy. He has helped lead multiple large-scale projects aimed at more effectively integrating chaplaincy and mental health care services across nationwide healthcare systems. Dr. Nieuwsma has authored over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles & book chapters, serves on the editorial board for the APA journal Spirituality in Clinical Practice, is Associate Editor for the Journal of Health Care Chaplaincy, and is a co-editor & author on the books ACT for Clergy and Pastoral Counselors and Addressing Moral Injury in Clinical Practice (forthcoming).


10:00-10:45am The Ethics of Moral Distress in the Social Work Workplace

Joanne M. Hessmiller, PhD, LCSW

Moral Distress in the social work profession grows out of ethical dilemmas related to client care or allocation of resources and is especially acute in high-risk settings like child protection or violence prevention, where caseloads are often too high to adequately fulfill expectations, and the price of a wrong decision could be life or death. This presentation will define moral distress and will identify models of ethical decision-making.

Joanne M. Hessmiller, PhD, LCSW is an Associate Professor of Social Work at North Carolina A&T State University.  Her work is centered on economic human rights, dialogue and deliberation in personal and public decision making and the use of technology to advance these areas of practice.


10:45-11:00am Break: Please take this time to visit with our exhibitors


11:00-12:30pm Panel Presentation


12:30-2:00pm Recognition & Awards Luncheon - Please take this time to visit with our exhibitors


2:00-4:00pm Truth to Power: Mobilizing Moral Courage and Ethical Action

Kim Strom, PhD, LISW

Moral Courage inspires ethical action. It means standing up and standing out in defense of principle, even when others are standing aside. Ethical action is more than whistle blowing. It involves daily acts of integrity, amid challenging conditions, carried out with skill and conviction. This presentation will discuss the strategies for overcoming moral distress, mobilizing courage and using fundamental social work skills to turn values and ethics into action.

Kim Strom, PhD, LISW is the Smith P. Theimann, Jr. Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Professional Practice at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work, and the Director of the UNC Office of Ethics and Policy, Dr. Kim Strom is an internationally recognized scholar on moral courage, ethics, leadership, and social work education. She has been an educator for over 30 years and has authored more than 75 books, articles, and chapters on ethics and practice.

By registering, you irrevocably consent to and authorize NASW-NC to photograph and record video images of you at the event and to use and publish the same. All negatives, prints and digital files shall be solely the property of NASW-NC.


Thank you to our Sponsors and Exhibitors!




  • Brain Injury Association of NC
  • Crest View Recovery Center
  • Disability Determination Services
  • Fellowship Hall
  • MindPath Care Centers
  • NC Client Assistance Program
  • NC Dept of Insurance - Seniors' Health Insurance Information Program (SHIIP)
  • Rosen Law Firm
  • Separating Together
  • Sex Addicts Anonymous
  • Vanguard Professional Staffing
  • UNC-Wilmington School of Social Work
  • Wilmington Treatment Center





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