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Whom Do Americans Trust? Nurses...And Teachers!

Just a couple months after the prestigious Institute of Medicine urged that nurses be seen as “full partners” in redesigning the American health care system, they have received another vote of confidence, this one from the American public. According to the most recent Gallup poll, for the 9th straight year (and the 11th year in all), the American people ranked nurses as the most honest and ethical workers in the country.

When asked to the rate the ethics and honesty of people in a variety of occupations, 81 percent of those surveyed gave a “very high/high” rating to nurses. Doctors received a very high/high rating from a still respectable of 66 percent of respondents.

Despite being regularly scapegoated by politicians and the media for the past several years, grade school teachers still edged out doctors by 1 percentage point (a statistical tie),  with 67 of those polled expressing high regard for the profession. Although this places teachers fairly high on the list of trusted professions—in fourth place, behind nurses (81 percent), military officers (73 percent), and pharmacists (71 percent)—the teacher bashing has apparently had an effect: Teachers have lost ground since the 2007 version of this survey, when they were rated "very high/high" by 74 percent of those surveyed.

Still, given the source of most teacher bashing, it is interesting to note that politicians and the electronic media, among the most vociferous of the profession’s critics, were regarded highly by only 9 percent and 23 percent of American respectively.

Education researchers were not rated.

The overall results are not surprising. Americans are fairly steady in their opinions, and nurses have topped the list since they were added in 1999, with the exception of 2001. In that year, firefighters were added to the survey, on a “one-time basis” following so many reports of their heroism and sacrifice during the 9/11 attacks. In 2001, firefighters finished first, with a 90 percent rating, but even in that year, 84 percent of Americans gave high honors to nurses.

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