Who do Americans trust most?

Eighty five percent say nurses. That’s 15 percentage points ahead of doctors.

At the other end of the spectrum, right alongside used car dealers, are the men and women we have elected to help run the country – members of Congress. Even though we elect them, only 10 percent of us trust them.

Nurses, on the other hand, have been the nation’s most trusted professionals for 13 of the past 14 years, according to the Gallup Research organization, receiving “high” or “very high” marks for honesty and ethics.

It’s fair to assume that we naturally trust caregivers because they are doing things for our benefit. They also spend the most time with us when we are in a vulnerable situation. And, they are available to answer our questions or to seek out answers if they don’t have them.

While most of us trust doctors, they don’t share the lofty perch of nurses regarding honesty and ethics. A survey of 24,000 doctors by Medscape and WebMD may reveal why.  It showed wide variation in how those physicians would respond to a number of ethical dilemmas – from assisted suicide to which insurance they will accept.

For example, by a margin of 41 to 27 percent, doctors said they would keep low paying insurers in order to continue seeing long time patients, but 33 percent said “it would depend.”

While 47 percent of doctors surveyed would tell a patient about to have a procedure if their specialist is substandard, 33 percent again that it would depend on circumstances.

And while over half of those surveyed say they would not order unnecessary tests, nearly half said they either would or “it would depend.” These results are consistent with an earlier study of cardiologists in which 24 percent admitted they’d order potentially unnecessary tests out of fear of a malpractice suit.

Why do you think the public trusts nurses more than doctors. Is it because doctors make more decisions involving ethics than do nurses? How do these findings relate to your own hospital experience.


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