Nurses' Beliefs about Nuclear War Avoidance


Address correspondence to: Mary Anne Stanitis, R.N., 325 Arnold House, Division of Nursing, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA 01003. Telephone: (413) 545-1344.


A questionnaire survey of 156 nurses from western New England institutions of health care and education was conducted to explore their beliefs regarding the avoidance of nuclear war. Twenty-five questions from the Voter opinion on nuclear arms policy manual were adapted to express the dimension of the health belief model (HBM) and analyzed to determine relationships among these dimensions, nurses' belief in action to avoid nuclear war, and demographic characteristics of the sample. A strong negative correlation existed between the susceptibility and severity dimensions of the model, which characterized two distinct beliefs about action to avoid nuclear war. A high score on the susceptibility dimension reflected a belief that the respondents felt vulnerable to consequences of nuclear war but believed in the efficacy of personal action. A high score on the severity dimension was related to a belief in the potential catastrophic nature of nuclear war and was associated with perceptions of strong barriers to taking action. The demographic characteristics of membership in a professional organization, opinion of the role of professional nursing organizations in opposing nuclear war, and parental status were not predictive of actions taken to avoid nuclear war.