Health care legislation can be difficult to understand and apply in critical situations where patients may not be physically capable of autonomous control of confidential health information. Nurses are often the first to encounter confidential information about patients.


To explore critical care nurses’ knowledge of federal and North Carolina state legislation regarding confidentiality.


This descriptive, qualitative study included 12 critical care nurses who were asked to describe their knowledge of federal confidentiality legislation and specific knowledge of North Carolina’s confidentiality legislation.


Critical care nurses were knowledgeable about federal confidentiality laws but demonstrated a need for further education about state-specific legislation.


Nurses’ application of confidentiality legislation demonstrates their knowledge of confidentiality legislation. To continue the trusting relationship that nurses have traditionally held with patients and patients’ families, it is imperative for nurses to remain current about confidentiality legislation. Through education both before and after licensure, correct application of legislation can be achieved. Further research can aid in exploring the intersection between health care legislation and ethics.

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