Honesty/Ethics in Professions
Gallup conducts a poll each year of how Americans view the honesty and ethics in a variety of professions. The last poll results were issued in November 2010. For the seventh straight year, nurses were rated number one with 24% of respondents indicating a very high level of ethics and 60%, a high level. Nurses were top ranked in all polling years since 1999 except in 2001 when firefighters held that honor following their heroic work on 9-11.
An interesting aspect of the nursing top ranking is that many studies have shown general dissatisfaction of nurses with their work environment. In the era of managed care, nurse turnover rates are at the highest levels of any profession. Nurse shortages lead to unreasonable demands and additional stress on the job, and doctors who may not value and respect what they do contribute to burnout. As a society, we do not value caregivers enough; they are not well paid for the sacrifices and the love and attention they devote to their patients/clients; and the internal rewards of the profession are lacking.
I found it interesting that military officers were ranked second with 73% indicating a high or very high rating for ethics. In some segments of society the military is looked down on yet it has a strict honor code and responsibility to one’s unit, the branch of service, and the country underlies the actions of all those who wear the uniform. Unfortunately, their ranking may suffer in next year’s poll because of the bad taste and judgment exhibited by Captain Owen Honors (note the irony) whose antics on the U.S.S. carrier Enterprise led to his loss of command. Perhaps Honors should have asked Scotty to beam him up before the story went viral.
Druggists or pharmacists are ranked third (71% positive) perhaps because they dispense the medications so many of us use to get through the day. Grade school teachers are next (67%) and then medical doctors (66%). Again, we have the helping professions and the same questions about job satisfaction. Jumping to the bottom of the list we find lobbyists and car salespeople with only a 7% approval rating. I feel sorry for the salespeople linked in that way. Members of Congress are next on the low end (9%). Frankly, I think that’s too high and wish the survey allowed for a negative ranking. It’s interesting that they fall between lobbyists and advertising practitioners (11%). There is a “huckster” element to what congress people do with respect to selling their constituents on what they will do to better their lives when they run for office and then letting lobbyists, the overwhelming desire to get reelected, and greed affect their future decisions.
What should we make of such rankings? I think it reflects the fact that the public is smarter than politicians seem to believe. Bankers, for example, went from a ranking of 37% for high or very high ethics in 2006 down to 23% in 2010. Bankers are now tied with TV reporters. That seems about right. Each group seems to want to put their spin on a story whether it’s the supportability and relative safety of mortgage loans that led to the financial crisis or how one side of the political spectrum portrays the other as the evil incarnate.
The bottom line is the public has lost all respect for the political process that is driven by lobbyists who cozy up to members of Congress by acting as used car salespeople to promote their cause all the while advertising that that they are trying to help the public.