The next time you notice one of your critical care or surgical nurses wavering over a moral dilemma in the workplace (e.g., whether or not to report a physician error or admit a medication mix-up) remind them that industry-wide their profession is regarded as the most honest and ethical in the nation. That’s according to the latest Gallup Poll, an annual survey that measures public opinion on every political, social, and economic issue worldwide.
Amazingly, Gallup pollsters have awarded nurses the “most trustworthy” status for 14 straight years! In this year’s poll (which ranked 21 professions including police officers, high school teachers, and clergy) nurses once again topped Gallup’s Honesty and Ethics category receiving a “very high” or “high” rating from 85% of Americans surveyed. Pharmacists and medical doctors trailed 17 percentage points behind, but still earned a “very high/high” ranking by two-thirds of Americans polled. What’s the reason why year after year, nurses are continually viewed as paragons of truth and morality by the majority of Americans? There are several explanations for this steady trend.
Real Life Encounters with Nurses Reinforce Feelings of Trust
Just about every person who has faced a hospital stay or undergone a physical exam or outpatient procedure can remember at least one nurse that brightened their day or made their experience more pleasant. Nurses advocate for their patients, anticipate their needs, provide emotional support when diagnoses are scary and treatments are daunting, and maintain a watchful eye against medical mishaps. Overall, nurses spend more time with patients than any member of the medical team. They are often the first medical practitioner a patient sees in the exam room and the first caregiver at their bedside pre- and post-surgery. That relationship of trust is a huge part of patient healing.
Positive Press Coverage Boosts the “Trustworthy” Image.
Although the healthcare industry has received its share of negative press (drug-cost warfare, medical malpractice, insurance fraud), for the most part critical care nurses are rarely linked to such bad publicity. What’s more, “feel good” articles involving nurses (their acts of kindness or heroic medical interventions) receive a fair amount of press. And these anecdotes are a welcome relief from the plethora of news about mass gun shootings, missing airliners and plane crashes, terrorist bombings, and so on. Reading a heartwarming, upbeat, and inspirational nursing story reinforces a reader’s trust in the profession.
Television Programs Paint a Picture of Reliability and Sincerity.
Americans are truly obsessed with fictional medical dramas. In the last decade shows such as House, ER, Grey’s Anatomy, Nurse Jackie, Code Black, and Chicago Med have dominated night-time television’s prime time slot and have continued to earn high ratings whether through new programming, re-runs, or syndication. At center stage are the doctors who save lives and the nurses who diligently nurture their patients. Parallel to real life, when a patient in a medical drama takes a turn for the worse or develops a symptom inconsistent with a diagnosis, nurses are the first to notice and respond. While these TV dramas do their best to portray physicians in a favorable light, it is often nurses—in the ER, OR, or bedside that carry the ball.
Unfortunately, despite the Gallup Poll’s rating of nurses as the most honest and ethical profession, many physicians and hospital management tend to undervalue their importance. If given the opportunity, nurses can wield some powerful changes and improvements in healthcare. There are several ways to make that happen:
- Doctors must give nurses the respect they deserve.
Unfortunately, only when doctors become patients do they understand the pivotal role nurses play in patient comfort and healing. Case in point, one eminent physician in the Boston area was rushed to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) after a fall down the stairs left him with a cracked skull and three broken vertebrae. While hospitalized, he received round the clock treatment by students, interns, and residents. Later, he moved to a rehabilitation hospital, where he noted that no single physician appeared to be taking charge of his case—they were too busy spending time on their computers than at the bedside. The personal care he received was mostly from nurses. In documenting his story he explained, “I had never before understood how much good nursing care contributes to patients’ safety and comfort, especially when they are very sick or disabled. This is a lesson all physicians and hospital administrators should learn.”
- Nurses should be given leadership roles.
After all, they are on the front line of patient care more than any other medical professional. They connect with people, are good listeners, are relentless in getting things done, and demonstrate tremendous problem-solving abilities. These qualities are extremely important in the board room, especially in light of the pressing issues that face hospitals and health systems nationwide.
- Nurses should be encouraged to speak up and feel they are in a position to do so.
That includes asserting their opinion and even interrupting surgery when they think a mistake is being made that might affect a patient’s health and safety. When they can do that without any hint of disapproval or fear of losing their jobs, then patient safety, quality of care, and the integrity of the nation’s healthcare system will live up to its greatest potential.
For more information on issues that affect your employees and your workplace rely on BOS Medical Staffing. Since 2008, our Georgia-based staffing firm has brought talented nurses, therapists and medical administrators together with top facilities. Contact BOS Medical today to talk about customized staffing solutions.