Facing a Crisis of Conscience

Have you struggled in your nursing practice in situations that go against your beliefs? Do you know you can make an appeal to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR)? 

On August 28, 2019, the HHS issued a Notice of Violation against the University of Vermont Medical Center for forcing a nurse to assist in an elective abortion procedure over the nurse’s conscience-based objections. World Magazine covered this incident and asked NCF to comment on conscience violations among nurses.

NCF Professional Ministries Director, Christy Secor, cited the Code of Ethics for Nurses, explaining that Christian nurses grapple with conscience violations and its impact on the profession. “When nurses feel moral distress, they feel it at their core,” Secor told World Magazine. Christy said she’s talked with nurses who feel distressed by their organization’s participation in abortions as well as end-of-life care and situations when they’re not allowed to pray with patients who ask for it.

In an American Journal of Nursing article last year, NCF National Director, Kathy Schoonover-Shoffner, commented on the January 2018 opening of the OCR creation of the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division and the need for a private right of action to protect nurses’ conscience rights. 

Learn more about nurses’ beliefs and their right to practice according to their conscience in the JCN article, “Faith and Ethics, Covenant and Code: The 2015 Revision of the ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements” by nurse ethicist Marsha Fowler. The article is free to all for one week.


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