1. Thompson, Elizabeth M. RN, CNOR, MSN

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According to a recent Gallup poll, nursing is considered the most trusted profession for the seventh year in a row.1 Of 1,010 Americans polled, 84% ranked nurses as high or very high in the categories of honesty and ethical standards. While I'm passionate about the nursing profession, I wondered why the public places its trust in us above the rest. Other high-ranking occupations were pharmacists, teachers, doctors, and police officers. Low-ranking professions were lawyers, business executives, stockbrokers, and telemarketers. So what sets the nursing profession apart?

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Our presence

When patients and family members are at their most vulnerable, nurses help them navigate through the system by explaining the process, their illness, the treatment, and what they can expect in the near future.


Nurses are more visible than most other healthcare providers. Physicians, pharmacists, and other healthcare professionals have a limited amount of time to spend with the patient. Nurses are there to answer any further questions they might have, and continuously monitor and assess the patient for signs of complications due to the illness or treatment. Lastly, the nurse is there to provide caring. The nurse listens attentively to other concerns the patient may have and provides interventions as needed.


Most nurses are in the profession because they are drawn to the interaction with others and want to make a difference in the patient's experience and outcome. Nurses don't generally work on commission and have nothing to gain by offering the newest product or policy that might provide the highest profit margin. There are no hidden agendas; the nurse is there to care for the patient exclusively. I think this fact helps the public to see our profession as altruistic.


A word about trust

The perioperative nurse interacts with patients when they're at their weakest. There are no family members around to intervene or advocate for the patient. The nurse interacts with surgical patients preoperatively for 5 minutes at the most. When the patient is introduced into the OR, they're overwhelmed by the number of people and activities, so we only have a brief window of time to establish a rapport. Many are under the effects of anesthesia. They trust us to provide a safe environment, advocate, and guard them against potential injury.


Trust can be fragile and conditional, however. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary defines trust (in part) as, "assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone; something committed or entrusted to one to be used or cared for in the interest of another."2 Our patients commit themselves to our care. This is a privilege we should not underestimate or take for granted.


We can be proud of the way the public views us and the trust placed in us. We each are our own "brand." Individually and collectively, we represent the nursing profession. Let's safeguard and treasure this honor.


Elizabeth M. Thompson, RN, CNOR, MSN

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Editor-in-Chief, Nursing Education Specialist, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.




1. Gallup, Inc. Nurses shine, bankers slump in ethics ratings. [Context Link]


2. trust. 2009. In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. [Context Link]