Why Nurses Are Still the Most-trusted Professionals


By Jennifer Larson, contributor

nursing leadersPatients look to nurses for information and care during their most vulnerable times, and nurses have proven themselves to be worthy of that trust. In fact, for 15 years in row, nurses have topped the annual Gallup poll’s list of the most-trusted professionals in the United States.

“Regardless of the clinical setting, one of nurses’ primary roles is to keep patients safe,” said Connie Barden, RN, MSN, CCRN-K, CCNS, chief clinical officer of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN). “Who wouldn’t value the honesty and ethics of someone whose job is to keep someone safe?”

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According to 2016 Gallup poll results, released in December, the honesty and ethical standards of nurses were given a Very High or High ranking by 84 percent of respondents. That’s significantly higher than the profession that received the next-highest ranking, which was pharmacists. Pharmacists were given a Very High or High ranking by 67 percent of survey respondents. 

Nursing leaders acknowledged the honor of receiving the top ranking and said they’re glad the vital role that nurses play in so many people’s lives has not gone unnoticed. 

“Patients depend on the nurse to advocate for them. Nurses also provide continuity of care by handing off the patient to another nurse or to a family member when they are discharged,” noted Linda Groah, MSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, FAAN, the CEO and executive director of the Association of periOperative Registered Nurses (AORN).  “Their ensuing trust demonstrates that nurses are with the patients more than any other health care professional, and the patients depend on them during one of the most vulnerable times of their lives, when they are sick or need health advice.”

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Pamela Cipriano, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, president of the American Nurses Association (ANA), expressed a similar position.

“Nurses share some of the most personal and challenging moments with patients and their families. Nurses protect the best interests of the people they serve, assist them in making informed decisions, and help them simplify the often frightening and confusing health care system,” said Cipriano. “It’s not surprising that patients rely on nurses to be honest and ethical when providing compassionate, effective care in sickness and health.”

But nurses also know that they can’t sit back and rest on their laurels. Nurses must continue to earn the public’s trust in order to maintain their top ranking—and their special relationships with their patients and families.

“Nurses have a responsibility to live up to our social contract with society to protect and promote access to quality care that is safe, equitable, timely and patient-centered,” said Cipriano. “By embracing a role of advocacy, protecting and promoting the interests of our patients, and speaking up for their welfare, nurses can maintain the trust that is so essential in a caring relationship.” 

“The key to maintaining this well-established trust is to always keep the patient as the number one focus,” said Barden. “With the patient as our ‘true north,’ appropriate and well-intended care will follow.”

Nursing leaders also noted that nurses just embarking upon their careers can draw inspiration from the survey results. 

New nurses and students need to understand how important their relationship is with every patient they care for—to advocate for the patient in all encounters and to consistently provide patient-centric care,” said Groah. “Taking the time to answer questions and provide emotional support is essential to build and maintain the essential trust and respect with the patient and their significant others.” 

Who ranked at the very bottom of the list of professions? Members of Congress, as only 8 percent of respondents gave them a Very High or High ranking. 

How the health care professions ranked

Here is how nurses compared to other healthcare professions in the 2016 Gallup poll of honesty and ethical standards among various professions:

Percent rated Very High/High for honesty & ethics

Nurses - 84%

Pharmacists - 67%

Medical doctors - 65%

Dentists - 59%

Chiropractors - 38%

Psychiatrists - 38%

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