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January 5, 2015

Why nurses again top Gallup's list of 'most trusted' professionals

Daily Briefing

A recent survey from Gallup finds that nursing is the most trusted profession in the United States, with respondents rating nurses highest for honesty and ethics.

The telephone survey of 805 adults gauged respondents' attitudes toward a number of popular professions. It found that the top five most trusted professions are:

    1. Nurses
    2. Medical doctors
    3. Pharmacists
    4. Police officers
    5. Clergy

Nurses take the top spot again

According to the survey, 80% of respondents rated nurses as having very high "honesty and ethical standards." About 65% saying the same for medical doctors and pharmacists. All three medical professions rated slightly lower than they had in 2013, with nurses dropping 2 percentage points, doctors 4 percentage points, and pharmacists 5 percentage points.

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Nurses have historically topped the list, topping the list every year since they were added to the survey in 1999—excluding 2001, when firefighters were named the most trustworthy professionals in America.

Why nurses?

According to the Boston Globe's Julie Xie, clinical psychologist Inna Khazan says, "People tend to place more trust in those that are directly caring for them," so a high regard for nurses make sense.

John Paris, a bioethicist at Boston College, agrees, highlighting the central role that nurses have in the care team. "It comes down to the way we deliver acute care, especially at teaching hospitals," Paris argues. Patients and families speak to many doctors, especially specialists called into treat the very ill, "but there's no captain on the ship… the nurse is the only one with any continuity," he says.

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Not all health care related professions fare so well in the ratings. Gallup notes that HMO managers consistently rate poorly (Xie, Boston Globe, 12/23/14; Riffkin, Gallup, 12/18/14).

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