Ethics in Public Health Practice: A Survey of Public Health Nurses in Southern Louisiana

Julie Folmar, Steven S. Coughlin, Ruth Bessinger, Donna Sacknoff

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

7 Scopus citations


The present study was designed to help learn more about the ethical interests and concerns of public health nurses employed in state and local health departments. Self-administered postal questionnaires were mailed to 41 public health nurses employed at health units in Region I of the Louisiana Office of Public Health. Basic demographic information was obtained along with information about the workers' previous instruction or training in ethics and the nature of ethical conflicts encountered in their public health practice. Only 38% (15 of 39) of the surveyed nurses had had formal instruction in ethics. Even fewer (7.3%) had received continuing education on ethics. Most of the nurses felt confident in their ability to recognize an ethical conflict or dilemma in the workplace; fewer felt confident in their ability to resolve an ethical conflict or dilemma. A high proportion of the nurses agreed that there is a need for continuing education courses on ethics for public health workers. Nurses who had received formal ethics instruction were more likely to feel confident in their ability to recognize an ethical conflict in their public health practice. Continuing education programs on ethics are needed that are designed to meet the specific needs of frontline public health workers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)156-160
Number of pages5
JournalPublic Health Nursing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 1997
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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