Influence of practice environment and nurse characteristics on perinatal nurses' responses to ethical dilemmas

Nurs Res. 2000 Mar-Apr;49(2):64-72. doi: 10.1097/00006199-200003000-00002.


Background: Previous research on nurses' responses to ethical dilemmas has focused either on nurse characteristics or on practice environment characteristics, but has not examined both influences concurrently.

Objective: To explore the relative contributions of practice environment characteristics and nurse personal and professional characteristics to perinatal nurses' willingness to be involved in activities to resolve clinical ethical dilemmas.

Methods: A descriptive correlational design and hierarchical multiple regression were used to examine responses of 127 perinatal nurses to three instruments: the Nursing Ethical Involvement Scales (NEIS), Perinatal Values Questionnaire (PVQ), and Demographic Data Sheet (DDS).

Results: The organizational variable, nursing influence, accounted for the greatest amount of variance in nurses' reported resolution actions, with nurses' concern about ethics and consequentialist values also contributing significantly. The three predictors together accounted for 31% (24% adjusted) of the variance in actions to resolve clinical ethical dilemmas. Level of nursing education was not a statistically significant influence.

Conclusions: These results suggest that nurses are more likely to be involved in dilemma resolution activities when they perceive themselves to have higher levels of influence in their practice environments and higher levels of concern about the ethical aspects of clinical situations. Nurses who emphasize consideration of morally relevant aspects of individual patient situations (consequentialist value orientation) and deemphasize adherence to abstract standards, rules, and policies also are more likely to be involved in dilemma resolution.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Educational Status
  • Ethics, Nursing*
  • Female
  • Health Facility Environment
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Intensive Care Units, Neonatal / organization & administration*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neonatal Nursing*
  • Organizational Culture
  • Professional Autonomy
  • Regression Analysis
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Texas