The purpose of this study was to assess nurses' perceptions of the Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) consenting process and their role in the decision-making process.A cross-sectional explanatory, descriptive study design was used to survey active American Association of Critical-care Nurses (AACN) and Oncology Nurse Society (ONS) members of central California. A 48-item questionnaire was mailed to 250 randomly selected AACN members and 160 randomly selected ONS members. The sample consisted of 278 nurses who returned completed questionnaires.The investigator developed a questionnaire, based on the Jezewski, Battista, Miller, and Scherer theoretical model (1993), addressing perceptions about the consenting process, knowledge of California law governing DNR, and demographics. Items were organized according to the constructs of one core category, consenting to DNR, and four influencing conditions: (a) the meaning of 'do-not-resuscitate,' (b) time and timing in the process, (c) the nurse's role, and (d) conflict issues that arose during the consenting process.Nurses perceive the DNR consenting process to be complex and consisting of three phases: initiating, obtaining, and concluding. Within the initiating phase, having an opportunity for the patient, family, and staff to discuss their perceptions of the patient's situation clarifies the actual situation and focuses on the appropriateness of DNR. Effective and supportive communication is key to assisting the patient and family during the obtaining phase. The concluding phase focuses on continued patient care and family support. The study's results indicated that Jezewski's model is applicable in the critical-care and oncology settings.Nurses are aware that California has established a law to govern the DNR process, but appear to be poorly informed of this law or hospital policy that complies with the law.Within each phases of the consenting process, there is a specific patient advocacy role the nurse should assume to assist the patient and family through the process. Nurses identify with the roles of patient and family advocate, educator, information giver, and decision maker but do not assume consistently all the roles during the process.Group responses differed in when the DNR process ends, concept complexity, when to encourage families to consent, legal dilemmas encountered, DNR order meaning, patient status documentation, and role assumption.