“Nurses are very interested in their patients’ care, and they see the results firsthand,” says David L. Knowlton, president and CEO of the New Jersey Health Care Quality Institute (NJHCQI), which commissioned the survey.
Further, says Knowlton, “Nurses are the most trusted professionals in America.” Indeed, in a recent Gallup survey, 83 percent of Americans rated nurses “high” or “very high” for honesty and ethical standards. It was the eighth consecutive year that nurses held the top spot—ahead of professionals such as pharmacists, veterinarians, and, yes, medical doctors.
Which is not to say that we don’t trust doctors. “Patients tend to go where their doctors tell them,” says Knowlton. In other words, by and large, patients choose doctors based on referrals from other doctors. (That’s probably why New Jersey Monthly’s annual list of Top Doctors, published in November, is so popular with readers.)
Unlike doctors, however, nurses are eyewitnesses to patient care. What’s more, says Knowlton, they are trained to be deeply concerned with the patient experience, including pain, recovery time, and speed getting out of the hospital. He also says that past research involving nurses indicates that nurses’ ratings of doctors transcends “whether they liked the doctor [personally] or not.”
With these factors in mind, the Polling Institute at Monmouth University, which conducted the survey, used a weighting system that emphasized the nurses’ role in patient care. The highest weighting was given to nurses’ recommendations when they had taken part in procedures with the doctor. Medium weighting was used when the nurses had cared for patients after a procedure (recovery-room nurses, for example). The lowest weighting was for recommendations based on reputation, rather than personal experience. (For complete methodology, see page 54.)
The resulting Nurses’ Choice list includes 180 doctors in 31 specialties. That’s far fewer than the 609 doctors in 60 specialties found in our November list of Top Doctors. It’s no surprise that the list tends to favor doctors whose practices require significant hospital time, as opposed to those who work primarily out of their offices. In the future, NJHCQI hopes to spread the buzz about the poll beyond hospital nurses to include more private-practice nurses, home-care nurses, nursing-home nurses, and others.