Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Dr. Mary Corley


The purpose of this research was to identify the values influencing the nurse's perception and choice of behavior in a hypothetical clinical situation. The theoretical framework was Rokeach's (1973) Theory on the Nature of Human Values and Value Systems. A descriptive study using a mailed survey was conducted on a random sample of 331 members of the National Association of Neonatal Nurses. Data on individual nurses' values, perception of information and behavioral choices were collected with an investigator developed questionnaire, consisting of a values scale (alpha =.82) and an information scale and choice alternatives related to three hypothetical vignettes: a low birthweight infant (alpha =.75), an infant with trisomy-13 (alpha =.70) and a chronically ill infant (alpha =.68).

Results of this study indicate that (1) nurses identified a hierarchy of values related to their practice; "doing right" (x = 6.1), beneficence (x = 5.4), and justice (x = 4.8), (2) information related to the infant was consistently most important; however, in uncertain situations, rules or external protocols had an increased influence on the behavioral choice process, (3) the behavioral choice option with the greatest agreement was different for each situation, and a consistently negative association between the options within each vignette indicates that nurses have clearly defined choice preferences, (4) model testing revealed a consistent relationship among the variable of justice and protocol, doing right and infant characteristics, and infant characteristics and the choice options across the three vignettes (p <.05).

The major findings include the identification of the value dimension, "doing right" and a lack of congruence between the values the nurse identifies as important and the actions the individual implements in practice. The phenomenon of "doing right" is a combination of items originally hypothesized to measure nurse autonomy, family autonomy and beneficence. The convergence of these items results in an unique dimension that represents the nurse's internally directed motivation or sense of duty to the infant/family unit. The lack of congruence between the identified values and the behaviors implemented in practice represents the sense of frustration and feeling of powerlessness experienced by nurses (n = 97) as they balance the role of professional and the role of employee.


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