It’s National Nurses Week! I say, let’s pause to offer up a “thank you” to a nurse who made a difference in our lives – like the night nurse in the ICU who cared for my father and took time out to call me when he took a turn for the worse; “I just wanted you to know”, she said. Or the hospice nurse who was so kind and patient with my brother and me when we knew there was nothing more to do for Mom but be present in our love for her. Nurses make a difference.
Did you know that nurses have been the most trusted professionals in America for 17 straight years? In the 2019 national Gallup poll, 82% of Americans rated nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as “high” or “very high.” Year after year, nurses are considered the most compassionate professionals over all other workers, even clergy and grade school teachers.
How can that be? In a world where trust and truth-telling are on the wane, where bullies are celebrated, it is still nurses who remain at the top of the list for trustworthiness and honesty. Pundits and prognosticators make hypotheses or offer educated guesses as to why this is so; for instance, nurses are trusted because they are most often women, and everyone knows women are more empathetic than men. Or, nurses spend more time with patients than physicians, which is why nurses are ranked at 82% and physicians are ranked 65% in trustworthiness.
In a recent article, Haider Warraichm, MD, and a cardiologist at Duke University Medical Center, says “Physicians, once among the most trusted professionals in the United States, now face a credibility crisis. Only one-third of Americans say they have a great deal of trust in physicians, down from around two-thirds in the 1970s…To quell this rising tide, I believe that my physician colleagues and I should learn from nurses…” and emulate them.
Physicians are trained in science and data. Nurses are trained in science too, but nurses are also taught how to care for the whole person, body, mind and spirit. It is these soft skills that human beings relate to, not simply the amount of time spent with a patient. It is the act of looking someone in the eye when they ask a hard question and answering them with honesty and compassion; it is listening with empathy and an open heart, and allowing for vulnerability on all sides; the patient’s, their family members’ and the nurse’s, too. Nurses do not run from emotion. They stand alongside people facing terrible diagnoses and take the blow with the patient, then stay to help to pick up the pieces when the world seems to be falling apart for those we serve.
Nurses aren’t just trusted because we are women or because we spend time with our patients. We are trusted because we CARE and have the courage to show it.