who do americans trust? nurses score highest in poll
december 10, 2003
by andrew herrmann staff reporter
when it comes to matters of honesty and ethics, nurses are no.1 in the eyes of americans, a new poll shows.
"maybe because [nursing's] such a mothering profession, and pretty much everybody loves their mom,'' suggested park ridge nurse shannon kelleher.
the gallup poll asked 1,004 americans to rate 23 professions. some 83 percent said the honesty and ethical standards of nurses are very high or high. that beat doctors and veterinarians -- the runners up -- by 15 points. nurses have captured the top spot in the annual query four of the last five years (being beaten out only in a post-9/11 rally by firefighters in 2001.)
faring the worst: car salesmen, hmo workers, insurance agents and advertising execs.
kelleher, a nurse at the rehabilitation institute of chicago, said her own admiration for the nurses who cared for her sick mother prompted her into the profession. when she graduated nursing school six years ago, she didn't realize "how interpersonal it was going to be.'' it seems nurses aren't just employees; they become part of people's lives.
rehab institute nurse oolong smith, 48, of hyde park, thinks the high ranking is related to people's experiences: "if you have ever had to care for a sick relative or friend, you understand how hard the job can be.''
and it's plenty hard.
"you have a life in your hands. a patient might be mean and grouchy, the family might be getting on your nerves, but you have to grin and bear it,'' smith said.
to survive, she said, "you have to have not only sympathy but empathy. you have to remember, this could be you.''
there are 2.2 million registered nurses in the united states, about one in four working part time. more than 95 percent are female.
illinois has about 142,000 nurses. according to the labor department, the median annual earnings of registered nurses were $44,840 in 2000. the middle 50 percent earned between $37,870 and $54,000.
cathy holmgren of the illinois nurses association said there is a severe shortage of nurses as women bypass the field for higher-paying positions with better hours. a severe shortage will likely get worse: the average age of registered nurses is 46.
the job is tougher than ever, she said, not only because of short staffing but because only the sickest patients are now admitted to hospitals.
"the job itself is hard,'' agrees connie canaday, 24, a rehab institute nurse from bucktown. "the pay isn't the best. you go to work and you're taxed physically. mentally, you're fatigued and stressed. it's a lot to handle.''
but, she said, "it's worth it.''
canaday talks of how patients, particularly young ones, return to the hospital, which specializes in helping people disabled by injury return to mobility. "a kid who once took you 45 minutes to dress, they'll come back walking and talking about how they went swimming or to the prom,'' she said. "it's amazing.''