Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to recognize and celebrate the 2020 Gallup poll results, which found nurses at the top of the list, once again, for honesty and ethics.
The results of the 2020 Gallup poll on which professionals are rated for their honesty and ethics are in, and nurses are once again at the top of the list. Nurses have earned this honor 19 years in a row.
In the poll, 89% of Americans who participated in the survey rated the honesty and ethics of nurses as very high or high — four percentage points higher than in the 2019 poll and seven percentage points higher than 2018. The latest results are based on a December 1-17 Gallup poll in which Americans were asked to rate the honesty and ethics of 15 different occupational groups.
“Building a professional rapport of honesty and ethics requires takes an immense effort, and it is a privilege to be trusted in this world,” said Alisha Cornell, DNP, RN, Clinical Implementation Consultant for Relias. “I am honored to know that I am a part of a profession that has been identified as a source of truth as providers of care. This is a monumental badge of honor and a historical precedent for healthcare.”
2020 Tested Their Mettle
At a time when recognition is especially meaningful, this honor serves as a reminder that nurses’ hard work and heroism during 2020 has not been overlooked. A year of unpredictable challenges began with the COVID-19 pandemic quickly spreading and threatening communities around the globe. This grim reality was soon compounded by a shortage of personal protective equipment, a lack of respirators and other hospital tools, and the physical danger to which nurses were exposed. Not to mention the fear of exposing their families and the isolation that came distancing themselves from loved ones in order to decrease their exposure to COVID-19.
But the world took notice of their efforts and dedication.
“Healthcare professionals received a lot of media attention in 2020 particularly in regard to the pandemic,” said Maria Morales, MSN, RN, Curriculum Designer for Clinical Education for Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, and Allied Health for Relias. “True stories of how nurses specifically were helping others to try to prevent or manage COVID-19 were frequent on talk shows and news programs. Many medical dramas and other entertainment shows portrayed the way nurses worked to place patients and clients first and help them in their times of need.”
Physicians’ and pharmacists’ honesty and ethics ratings also improved in the 2020 poll, with physicians rising 12 points to 77%, compared to the preceding year, and pharmacists improving by seven points to 71%.
Nursing home operators landed in eighth place in the Gallup poll, with a new high of 36% — 10 points above their previous rating in 2017 and four points ahead of their prior high of 32% recorded in 2013.
Interestingly, Republicans and Democrats agreed on the top ratings for nurses, physicians, grade-school teachers, and pharmacists.
On the other end of the spectrum, the 2020 Gallup poll found members of Congress and car salespeople tying for last, with just 8% rating them highly.
Gallup has measured the public’s views of the honesty and ethical standards since 1976, and over the years nurses have maintained the public’s trust. With the exception of one year — in 2001 when firefighters topped the list after 9/11 — nursing has far outpaced all other professions since it was added as a category two decades ago, according to the poll. Before 1999, pharmacists and clergy members were the most highly rated professions for their ethics.
“The findings of the Gallup Poll are not surprising. Nurses have consistently ranked highly in honesty and ethics,” said Nadine Salmon, MSN, RN-BC, IBCLC, SME Writer for Clinical Nursing for Relias. “As a profession, we strive to advocate for our patients, and we are usually seen as trustworthy, patient-focused supporters without financial motivators. I’m proud to call myself a nurse and congratulate all nurses worldwide on their dedication, empathy, and devotion to the profession and the patients we serve.”
Ethical Practice Isn’t Just Lip Service
Treating patients with compassion and respect has always been part of nurses’ creed. According to ethics expert and educator, Carol Taylor’s article, “Are you an ethics champion?” nurses operate within the following three core responsibilities:
- Ensuring every patient and family member is treated with compassion and respect.
- Supporting patients and their surrogates as they make healthcare decisions.
- Resolving conflict about the plan of care.
“Perhaps never before has it been so important for nurses to be skilled in recognizing and responding to everyday ethical challenges,” Taylor, PhD, RN, said in the article.
Nurses’ Compassion Embodies Heroic Acts and Advocacy
Over the years, nurses have been at the forefront of stories that illustrate their compassion. The public has often witnessed firsthand nurses’ work before, during, and after hurricanes and other natural disasters, in the aftermath of mass shootings, and more. But their work in 2020 during the pandemic has demonstrated their importance and self-sacrifice like never before.
“One typically does not enter the nursing field for fame or fortune, but rather as a way to serve others,” said Morales. “It’s great to see nurses continue to be respected and celebrated for how they care for others with their minds, time, energy, and hearts.”
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