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Nurses: Trusted Strangers

Nursing: the most trusted profession but does the public understand what nurses do Nursing: the most trusted profession
Nursing: the most trusted profession but does the public understand what nurses do

Nursing: the most trusted profession

We nurses have a long-standing position as the most trusted profession in America.  Say you’re a nurse and right away people’s faces light up. At the same time, it is not well understood what nurses do, and the media is rife with misconceptions.

The question posed to several high-profile nurses was:

 “How does the public view nursing and why?”

 Here are their answers:

Beth Boynton, a progressive thinker and passionate writer from Confident Voices gives a thought-provoking answer.

I think nurses are viewed as trustworthy and compassionate members of the healthcare team, but there is a lack of understanding about and respect for how complex our work is.  Answering the “Why?” is harder and includes the fact that nurses are:

  • Historically handmaidens which contributes to undervaluing or dismissive attitudes
  • Subject to a narrow view of our work i.e. in relationship to their care rather than broader scope of our work
  • Predominantly women in the profession 
  • Sometimes suffering from low self-esteem/respect that leads us to say things like, “I’m just a nurse”

I think Beth is getting to the bottom of it. Thank you, Beth p.s. good name 🙂

How does the public view nursing?

How does the public view nursing?

From Nurse Mo, who shares helpful nursing student helps and insights at straightanursingstudent:

“I think many people view nursing based on what they see in the media. For example, in television shows and movies, it’s the doctors who are providing hands-on patient care, while nurses are reduced to order takers and helpmates. It’s time the media accurately represent the complex and robust role nurses play.”

Brittney Wilson, well known as the Nerdynurse wrote:
In general, I think that the public has a great perception of nursing. We are constantly voted as the most trustworthy profession. We even have our own week celebrating the profession.  However, I am sure that most people actually know very little about what we actually do. In the world of healthcare, physicians are still seen as the holy grail. Nurses may be respected, for the most part, but we’re not understood. “

The complexity of what we do is certainly not well understood. It’s complicated, right?

Nurses are trusted and respected. But is nursing understood by the public?

Nurses are trusted and respected. But is nursing understood?

Joan Ekstrom Spitrey, a clinical nurse instructor from the site theNurseTeacher, who works tirelessly to educate student nurses, says:

Overall, I think the public has a very favorable opinion of nurses, despite the fact they may not know everything that we do and the education and knowledge we have acquired. (And most opinion polls agree on this fact – still America’s most trusted profession!) People are usually very surprised once they learn all that really goes into a nurse’s day. But, what they do know, is that the nurse is the one at the bedside, holding their hand, explaining what the doctor just said and celebrating their victories and setbacks. Nurses are the trusted stranger – just by virtue of saying, “Hi, I am going to be your nurse today” – they trust us immediately. After that, it is our job to uphold the trust and not fail them at the time of their greatest need.”

 Love that phrase “Nurses are the trusted stranger”. Thanks friend, Joan.

Most every writer says nurses are seen as trust-worthy. And respected.

But being trusted is not enough to focus attention and garner greater resources for nurses, and ultimately, patients. I wrote a piece to try to answer the question “What do nurses do?” and ended with “We provide safe passage.” But that doesn’t go far enough and is not clear enough.

What do you say is the public’s perception of nurses? And how do we close the gap between perception and reality? Are nurses seen as Waitresses with Stethoscopes?


Until next time friend,

What does the public think nurses do?

What does the public think nurses do?

Nurse Beth

Nursing’s Dirty Little Secret

How NOT to answer “What’s Your Greatest Weakness?” in an interview 

The Spider Bite

You can also come visit me at Ask Nurse Beth career column at for all kinds of  entertaining and informative career questions and answers, and to submit your own question 🙂


About Beth Hawkes (146 Articles)
Nice to meet you! I'm a Nursing Professional Development Specialist in acute care, a writer, speaker and career columnist.

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