May 11th, 2011
Americans not only like their nurses, they trust them. This is according to the annual Gallup Poll Survey on Honesty and Ethics. In fact, the American public trusts nurses more than any other profession. Every year, save one, since 1999, nurses have topped the list. And, in 2001, when they were beat out by firefighters following the September 11th tragedy, they posted a healthy second place ranking.
What keeps nurses at the top of the list, along with pharmacists and military officers is their ability to generally avoid widespread scandals. Bankers, for example, have moved far down the rankings since the financial crisis began.
The theme for National Nurses Week 2011 was "Nurses Trusted To Care." Most nurses will tell you their number one job commitment is patient safety. Nurses today are patient advocates, teachers and caregivers.
The commitment nurses bring to patient care is based strongly in a code of ethics very similar to the doctors' or medical code of ethics. There are however some significant differences. Nursing codes of ethics are more rooted in "caring" than "curing." In the early definitions of nursing ethics there was more focus on what qualities make a good nurse rather than focus on the conduct necessary to respect the client in the nurse's care.
In recent years, the focus of the nursing code of ethics has shifted to the rights of the patient. In 2005 this was defined specifically in the latest revision of the International Council of Nurses Code of Ethics for Nurses.
"Nurses have four fundamental responsibilities: to promote health, to prevent illness, to restore health and to alleviate suffering. The need for nursing is universal.
Inherent in nursing is respect for human rights, including cultural rights, the right to life and choice, to dignity and to be treated with respect. Nursing care is respectful of and unrestricted by considerations of age, colour, creed, culture, disability or illness, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, politics, race or social status.
Nurses render health services to the individual, the family and the community and co-ordinate their services with those of related groups."
One segment of respect for patient rights is in truth telling. Clients and their families should have the information required to make autonomous decisions. Sometimes it seems there is a search for balance between people having information and unnecessarily distressing patients with the details of their illness and treatment. However, the balance generally falls towards honesty unless the patient lacks the capacity to understand their situation or has, for some reason, has asked specifically not to be told.
During education and training, nursing students study nursing theory, the body of knowledge used to define or explain nursing practice. Modern nursing theory seeks a collaborative relationship between the caregiver and the person in their care. Themes in nursing theory include autonomy of the patient and preservation of dignity allowing for the patient to have control over his own care.
The results of the recent Gallup Poll are backed up by information gathered in other surveys. In a Harris public opinion poll commissioned by Nurse Week/HealthWeek and Sigma Theta Tau International, a nursing honor society, results revealed 92 percent of those polled said they trust information about health care they receive from registered nurses. Nurses fell just one percentage point below doctors in this survey.
Another interesting question from the Harris Poll asked parents how they would feel if their children, male or female, opted for a career in nursing. Overall, 85 percent of respondents said they would be pleased if their son or daughter became a registered nurse. In fact, the survey revealed those same parents would rather their child chose nursing over being a lawyer, journalist or police officer.
It is nursing's baseline found in the code of ethics and commitment to truth telling that makes for such positive public perception. By continuing to practice these principals nurses will continue their reign at the top of the most trusted and ethical polls.