Nurses top UK poll on who makes biggest contribution to society

Nurses are judged to make the biggest contribution to society in Britain, ahead of doctors and teachers, a poll of the public has found.

YouGov asked a representative sample of 1,805 adults which group from a list of five types of professionals contributed the most to society.

Nurses topped the table (chosen by 16%) with doctors and teachers in joint second (12% each). Next came scientists (6%) and engineers (4%).

“The public knows that nursing staff go above and beyond in all they do for patients and those in our care,” said Pat Cullen, general secretary and chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), which commissioned the research.

“These findings show how much the public revere, admire and value nursing staff.”

Nurses’ special place in British esteem is well established. They have topped the pollster Ipsos Mori’s veracity index – an annual survey of which professional groups the public trust most to tell the truth – every year since they were first included in 2016.

In the most recent edition last December, 94% of those surveyed said they trusted nurses to be truthful, ahead of librarians (93%), doctors (91%) and teachers (86%). Advertising executives had the lowest trust rating, at just 16%, followed by politicians and government ministers (both 19%).

Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England.

Ruth May, England’s chief nursing officer, said: “It is fantastic to read that the public considers the work nurses do so highly. No doubt their tireless work throughout the pandemic and to this day has had a huge part to play in that.”

However, the YouGov survey also found that 70% of Britons think there are too few nurses to give patients proper medical care. The most recent NHS figures show that the health service in England is short of almost 40,000 nurses.

Miriam Deakin, the director of policy and strategy at the hospitals body NHS Providers, said: “Workforce shortages in the NHS are the most pressing concern for trust leaders and colleagues across health and care.

“We have 110,000 vacancies in trusts alone, high levels of burnout and worrying numbers of staff resigning from the service.”

Meanwhile, the four home nations’ chief nursing officers are backing a new campaign called Here for Life, which aims to raise awareness of the roles nurses and midwives perform and the skills they deploy. It is also intended to encourage potential recruits to consider becoming a trainee.

“The Here for Life campaign is about highlighting that careers in nursing and midwifery are highly skilled and require a combination of professionalism, commitment, knowledge, competence and compassion.

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“We hope that future generations of nurses and midwives will be inspired by these stories and make the choice to join the professions,” said Prof Jane Cummings, the chair of the RCN Foundation, which is running the initiative.