Eighty-five percent of Americans rated registered nurses’ honesty and ethical standards as “very high” or “high,” earning them the top spot in a Gallup poll ranking perceived ethical standards across a wide range of professions.

Nurses outperformed pharmacists by 10 percentage points (75%) and medical doctors (70%) by 15 points, scoring the highest of all professions on a list that included teachers, policemen and members of congress.

Survey participants were asked to rank 22 professions on a five-point honesty and ethical scale ranging from “very high” to “very low,” in telephone interviews conducted from Nov. 26-29, 2012. The random sample consisted of 1,015 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

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This is the highest ranking nurses have ever received since the profession was first included in the poll in 1999. Nurses have received the highest ranking each year except in 2001, when firefighters ranked first after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

“This poll consistently shows that people connect with nurses and trust them to do the right thing,” said American Nurse’s Association (ANA) President Karen A. Daley, PhD, MPH, RN, FAAN. “Policymakers should do the same as they debate crucial budget decisions that will affect health care quality and access for millions of Americans.”

As Congress engages in “fiscal cliff” negotiations, the ANA continues to emphasize the importance of avoiding hasty, large-scale Medicare spending cuts that could decrease patients’ quality of care as a deficit-reduction measure, the organization said in a press release.

As states develop health insurance exchanges as part of the Affordable Care Act, the ANA continues to encourage nurses to serve as members of governing boards for state exchanges and for the recognition of qualified nurses to fully participate in Qualified Health Plans.