Being Top Dog

Nurses are in the most respected profession for ethical behaviors. This is just a reminder of some of the necessities of role modeling to maintain this trust level. Some specific behaviors are noted but that by no means is to be a complete list. Being Top Dog is an honor that can be quickly lost by our in attention to our behaviors. Nurses Announcements Archive Article

Being Top Dog

Nursing is the most respected profession.

This statistic is pretty static year after year. We are almost always the first. The only exception to this was in 2001 when firefighters ranked higher after 911. People accept honesty and ethical behaviors as the norm for nurses. This distinguishing characteristic may bring responsibilities to all of us. At least I believe we need to accept the fact that being "top dog" in honesty and ethics means we need to do the "right thing." If we value this honor then we are careful in our own personal lives.

I rarely see anyone say we need to do the right thing just because we are nurses. I believe we do. We need to be tobacco free, work on our mental and physical health, have good hygiene, etc. I think all motorcycle riders need to wear helmets. We need to buckle seat belts and require use by all in a vehicle. Car seats for children is a non-negotiable item. In the same vein I think there is no excuse for driving while under the influence of any chemical that affects your driving.

Every nurse can tell horror stories of the effects of accidents involving alcohol or other mind altering chemicals. We know the statistics. "In 2009, 10,839 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (32%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United State." This is from the CDC and originally from Dept of Transportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Traffic Safety Facts 2009: Alcohol-Impaired Driving. Washington (DC): NHTSA;2010 [cited 2011 Jan 25]. Another statistic: "Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion." This from Blincoe L, Seay A, Zaloshnja E, Miller T, Romano E, Luchter S, et al.The Economic Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes, 2000. Washington (DC): Dept ofTransportation (US), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA);2002.

The cost of drunk driving can be staggering. A first DUI will cost you approximately $2000 in attorney fees. You may have court costs, a fine, your insurance rates will sky rocket when you get your driver's license back. Add to that loss of time from work to be in court, the embarrassment of the entire thing, and just for good measure your car may be towed or impounded.

I work in a law office. I see the effects of a DUI not only on the individual but also the family. I see the pain in the driver's eyes as they tell me about the accident they caused that injured or killed someone. Children can be removed from homes for being in a car with a drunk driver. Every one of these people tell me they need a drivers license to be able to work. It is almost automatic that first DUIs lose their license for 6 months. A second will usually result in a loss for a year and include jail time. Continued DUIs will result in felony charges which lead to loss of voting as well as loss of other freedoms. Jail time is mandatory. Nurses can lose their nursing licenses in addition to all the other losses. So the lose of a job, the ability to do the work you studied, and sweat blood and tears to achieve this worthy goal could go out the window. Is it worth it?

The same way we know some statistics we also know how to avoid a DUI. The obvious answer is don't drink and drive. No one is immune to the effects of some chemicals and alcohol is one of the worst. We also need to be aware of the effects of other chemicals in the form of medications. One of our clients is a fine upstanding citizen who, under the influence of Ambien, shoplifted from a large department store. She was in tears as she told me she had no idea why she did it. She is not a kleptomaniac. She was taking a medication as prescribed by her doctor. Such behavior is a well known side effect of this common sleeping aid. I suspect some nurses use it to sleep when the sandman eludes them. I am not telling you what to put into your body or refuse to put in. I am stating that you need to be aware of the effects. In this client's case, had she been a nurse, very likely she could have lost her ability to practice. Every drug has potential side effects. Know how you react so you don't face such consequences.

Please understand this is not a lecture to get people to stop drinking. It is a reminder that we all have a responsibility as a nurse to be appropriate role models. If we are not, then we deserve to lose top billing in the trust department. As a group none are trusted or respected more than nurses as ethical people. I hope you see how much you mean to people and how special you are to our citizens and work to continue to maintain your "TopDog" ranking.

TopazLover is a retired nurse who now has a second career as an office manager. Her background as a nurse helps daily dealing with a criminal defense lawyer's office. As a widow she has led many grief groups and provides support for those in turmoil.

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Specializes in LTC.

That poll's just rating how honest/ethical people think we are, we are NOT the most respected profession. Heck, we can't even BE honest for fear someone will complain about how the meanie nurse told them to stop drinking for fear of blowing their liver to kingdom come.

I agree that some nurses lack tact, diplomacy and timing when it comes to dealing with alcoholism. Why would a nurse do anything more than patient education alone? If you are going to get in someone's face about any behavioral change you need to be prepared and do it correctly. You can educate without being confrontational. Any confrontation I believe needs more than a lone nurse in the wilderness describing how a liver blows up. Most alcoholics know they should slow down or stop drinking. They are stopped by their fears as well as other issues. That trust that people have for nurses means that a nurse can often, with proper education and willingness to work with the person, get a foot in the door as it were. No one stops drinking because one person describes the progression. They stop when they stop. Usually many cues have been given over a period of time prior to this stoppage.

What the results of the Gallop poll show is that people think nurses are the most ethical profession. That translates into trust. If we give up the trust our patients have in us everyone loses.

I unfortunately have to agree with Lynx, we're considered honest, but not respected.

Patients really don't care what we say unless we tell them, "No," when they request their pain meds, snacks, or pillow fluffing.

I'm feeling more cynical than usual, so I'm speaking in absolutes. Of course there are the occasional patients that "we touch their lives" and other rainbowy stuff, but that doesn't change the fact that on the whole, we are not respected. Of course, we shouldn't be getting DUIs anyway, as nobody should be doing something that stupid and dangerous.

AKN- I have to agree with you on this one. I am not a fan of alcohol, I don't think it's chic, posh or classy; not even these ridiculous wine conissiours which probably comes from the many, many years of admitting drunks to the hospital and having alot of thier body fluids end up on my shoes, the bed rails,in the beds. That stench was the only smell in nursing on those floors I truely could not tolerate. To this day I absolutely can not tolerate alcohol breath and I can smell it if some one has only one drink.

I worked 11-7 with a hilarious LPN way back the late 1980's. We some how managed to get every hard core alcoholic kook that came through the doors of the ED. We would come out of their room after cleaning up the loose stools, emesis and listening to their inebriated babbling of nonsense and she would state very seriously " a mind is a terrible thing to waste".

Specializes in Alzheimer's, Geriatrics, Chem. Dep..

Thanks AKY! I've been sober since 85, but I can remember some very not-cool behaviors before then. :( It was just the grace of God I did not kill someone driving drunk and any number of awful things that could have happened :( I sure was not thinking about self-respect or respect for the profession.

Specializes in LTC, assisted living, med-surg, psych.

I haven't touched an alcoholic drink since New Year's Eve 1991, but I can't even count the number of times I drove under the influence prior to that night. God must've known I couldn't have lived with myself had I killed or hurt someone in this fashion. (He must also have known that I would need a clean record to become a nurse, because the only crimes I have ever been charged with were a couple of misdemeanors back in the mid-80s when I didn't pay a pair of traffic tickets.) Whatever the reason, I am grateful every day to be sober, and to never have to worry about DUIs, DTs, or just making a complete ass of myself in front of other people.

Thank you for this article, AKY. You're "Top Dog" in my eyes, all the time. :hug:

Depending on where you live you can get a DUI riding or even *walking* your bicycle. I've heard it's true for skate boarders too. Organize your ride home carefully.

I've always said the Gallup poll means trusted, certainly not respected.

"rainbowy stuff" snort , giggle, wheeze

I agee with the posters who identified that nurses are not respected as they should be. Nurses are professionals who contiue to learn and grow throughout their entire career. What the poll says is that our ethics are so well respected. My writing was an attempt to show places where we need to adhere to our own personal ethical behaviors. Those things we tell patients we need to role model.

I do understand many of you are working under bad conditions. Mangement sees you as a corporate expense as well as an asset they can use improperly. You may not like my response to this. GET A UNION. If you want respect don't put up with being shown less respect than you are due. I understand you may have financial issues and are fearful for your job. Remember your employer has no compassion, empathy, or loyalty to his corporate asset/expense. If you identify yourself as this you will not be any more respected than a mop or food tray.