Why the nursing profession is held in such high esteem.
The president of the Indian Nurses Association of Illinois (USA) explains why Gallup Poll respondents rank nursing No. 1 in the United States for honesty and ethical standards.
For the 17th year in a row, respondents to a recent Gallup poll ranked nursing No. 1 in the United States for honesty and ethical standards when compared to a diverse list of 19 others. Nearly 84% rated nurses as having very high standards for honesty and ethics. As a nurse for more than 30 years, I always feel honored when I am annually reminded of how highly the public views my profession.
What do we do to deserve such recognition? We show compassion, courage, knowledge- and ethics-informed responsiveness, and empathy.
In an article published by The Boston Globe, author Julie Xie reports that continuity of care has a lot to do with why nurses are so highly trusted. When it comes to delivering care, registered nurses are ever-present, forming relationships with patients and their families. Whether replenishing water to keep a patient hydrated or addressing a major life-threatening health crisis, nurses have the breadth and depth of education, expertise, and experience needed to respond in a holistic manner.
Nurses spend time teaching patients about their medications, explaining the plan of care, providing discharge instructions, and calling patients after they are discharged from the hospital to ensure that follow-up appointments are made. The continuity of care that nurses provide is essential to building trusting relationships with patients as well as their families.
Nurses spend significant time with patients, exponentially more than doctors or pharmacists. This is not surprising because many core nursing functions, such as administering medications, changing dressings, responding to call lights, and mobilizing patients involve direct interaction.
In the hospital setting, doctors make rounds with other healthcare team members, often with interns and residents who are in training. Since this type of rounding does not allow for one-on-one time with patients, it falls to nurses to fill that void by explaining to patients their course of action or plan for the day. Nurses know how to communicate with patients and can explain things to them and their families in ways that put their minds at ease.
Early in their education, student nurses learn about the American Nurses Association Code of Ethics. Its nine provisions and interpretive statements stipulate how nurses must practice in the United States. They include practicing with compassion and respect, advocating for the patient, providing optimal care, preserving integrity, and improving the ethical environment of work settings.
It’s part of our DNA to live by The Code. We understand the importance of treating each patient with compassion and respect (Provision 1). We know that each patient needs to be regarded as a unique human being.
Showing genuine interest in patients while caring for them helps nurses be more effective advocates (Provision 3). As time allows, they ask about a patient’s family, work, and hobbies. Such conversations are not superficial. Rather, they show patients and their families that nurses have sincere interest in them as people. The patient in 606B has a name.
Nurses provide optimal patient care by taking authority, being accountable, and demonstrating responsibility (Provision 4). They maintain competence by pursuing ongoing personal and professional growth (Provision 5).
Integrity (Provisions 5 and 9), honesty, and strong moral principles (Provision 6) are essential character attributes that all nurses must demonstrate. Nurses establish trust with the vulnerable patients they serve by being truthful and consistent and by following through with commitments (Provision 3).
Individually and collectively, nurses establish and maintain ethical standards to ensure that patients receive safe and high-quality healthcare (Provision 6). They are taught to speak up on behalf of patients so that they are treated as individuals with unique needs.
The connection between patient and nurse forms a foundation of care that spans the spectrum of health, illness, healing, and recovery. Some encounters may last only a few minutes or hours. Others may last for days, months, or years. No matter the length of an encounter, each is a unique experience for both patient and nurse.
A recent article published in The Hill illustrated that mainstream media rarely portray nurses in roles that draw attention to their advanced skills and knowledge—instead, media cast nurses as background characters tied to physicians. However, when given the opportunity to share a story about a family member who received care from a nurse, a majority of respondents describe nurses who are caring and knowledgeable.
Honesty and ethical standards are essential attributes for any profession. Nurses should be proud that their profession continues to be recognized for holding to these high standards year after year. I'm proud to be a nurse and serve the needs of patients I have the privilege to care for, and I know other nurses feel the same way. We need to keep working diligently to ensure that nursing continues to be recognized as the most honest and ethical profession. RNL
Aney Abraham, DNP, RN, NE-BC, is associate vice president of nursing operations at Rush University Medical Center and an associate professor at Rush University College of Nursing. Abraham is also president of the Indian Nurses Association of Illinois and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project at Rush University College of Nursing.