January 25, 2023

Nursing Ranked as the Most Trusted Profession for 21st Year in a Row

Nurse holding child patient in hospital bed

For an impressive 21st year, nursing was rated as the most trusted profession once again in 2022, according to a Gallup poll. Despite its #1 ranking, only 79% of U.S. adults now believe nurses have “very high” or “high” honesty and ethical standards. Unfortunately, this is 10 percentage points lower than the highest rating for nurses during 2020 and the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It appears that American people are more cautious about who they are handing out their trustworthy badges to, so that makes the fact that nursing nabbed the #1 spot yet again—for the 21st year in a row!—all the more impressive.

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 Who’s at the Top

The Gallup Honesty and Ethics poll originated back in 1976 and has been conducted every year since 1990. If you’re doing the math that means that–yup–nurses have ranked as #1 almost the entire time. (The only year they were displaced was after 2001, when firefighters claimed the top spot, understandably.) Only a small percentage of professions have been on the list every year. 

2022’s poll was conducted between November 9th and December 2nd among Americans, and the results placed nurses above medical doctors as the most trusted profession. 79% of Americans ranked nurses as trustworthy based on the Gallup poll scale of “very high, high, average, low or very low.” Last year, nurses garnered even more trustworthiness at 81% ranking, but we’ll just say it’s been a tumultuous year, so those high marks are still very impressive. 

Medical doctors landed in second place, falling behind nurses as the most trustworthy by a full 17 points or only 62% of Americans ranking them. 

The other three professions deemed the most trustworthy were 3) pharmacists (58%) 4) high school teachers (53%) and 5) police officers (50%). More than 6 in every 10 Americans deemed each of these professions as “highly ethical.” Medical doctors’ rating is at its lowest point since 1999 and nurses’ since 2004.

Source: Gallup

Here’s the full breakdown of how the top 5 professions ranked by trustworthiness: 

  • Nursing: 79% 

  • Medical doctors: 62% 

  • Pharmacists: 58%

  • High School Teachers: 53%

  • Police Officers: 50%

Overall, the numbers for the top five are extremely low compared to previous years. Interestingly, every profession dropped significant percentage points in the current Gallup poll. High school teachers' latest ranking (53%) is the lowest by seven points since 2002 when that profession was added to the list. 

Who’s at the Bottom

The bottom-dwellers of the Gallup poll included professionals such as telemarketers, members of Congress, and car salespeople. In fact, these three professions received no votes for “very high” standards. Telemarketers and Members of Congress both received 25% votes for “very low”.

Source: Gallup

Last year’s poll did show a marked difference in how political beliefs impact the perception of different occupations. According to the poll, the overall decline in the ethics ratings of nurses, medical doctors, and pharmacists is driven by Republicans and Republican-leaning independents. Democrats’ and Democratic-leaning independents’ ratings of the three medical professions have returned to pre-pandemic levels or improved. Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are significantly lower now than they were in 2019.

Source: Gallup

“This recognition belongs to America’s 4.4 million incredible nurses,” said ANA President Jennifer Mensik Kennedy, PhD, MBA, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN. “For more than two decades now, the nation has recognized the vital role you play in keeping our friends, families, and communities safe and healthy, regardless of the setting you work in or the challenges you might face. Your ranking in this poll is an acknowledgement that without your bravery, professionalism, and clinical expertise, our health care system could not function. I look forward to celebrating and sharing your many remarkable achievements over the course of 2023 and beyond.”

And while the Gallup poll results represent an impressive achievement for the nursing profession as a whole, it also represents a significant decrease in the perception of the healthcare profession as a whole, with both medical doctors and nurses seeing a rather larger drop in numbers from last year. While still ranking high, it’s a sobering reminder of the damage the pandemic has done and how much work lies ahead in supporting healthcare workers. 

“Like 2020 and 2021 before it, this past year was a difficult one for nurses. Though COVID-19 may have receded from the headlines, it continues to weigh on nurses in communities and care settings in every corner of the country. Additionally, the strain of a historically severe flu season along with a surge of RSV infections has only added to the stress and anxiety that many nurses are feeling,” said Mensik Kennedy. “And the lurking menace of workplace violence can make what is already a difficult job, a deadly one. In short, I am gravely concerned about our nation’s nurses and the nursing profession.”

“I am urging the public and private sector to work together with nurses to develop solutions to the numerous longstanding crises that have plagued nursing for too long,” said Mensik Kennedy. “Because the health of the nation depends on a strong and well-supported nursing workforce.”