For the last 20 years, nurses have won the coveted top spot in the Gallop survey on most trusted professions in the US. However, the profession of nursing’s reputation as the most trusted profession is in jeopardy.
The recent nurse license fraud scheme in Florida has put nurses in the spotlight again, but not for good reasons. It is raising questions about the quality and integrity of not only the state’s nursing workforce, but also the country’s workforce as many of those nurses went on to practice in other states. Since starting in 2016, more than 7,600 individuals fraudulently obtain diplomas and transcripts from two nursing schools in Florida so they can take the NCLEX without attending or successfully completing a nursing program. Of them, roughly 1/3 passed the exam and fraudulently obtained nursing licenses. This has the potential to negatively impact the public’s trust in nurses, which can have long-lasting effects on the profession.
Studies have shown that the public’s perception of a profession has a significant impact on their confidence in it. When a profession is perceived as unethical or untrustworthy, it can lead to decreased trust in its members, which can hurt the sanctity of the nurse-patient relationship. When patients do not trust their nurses, they may leave out important details that can affect their care. They may disregard education and vital instructions as coming from an untrustworthy source. They may refuse to seek treatment as this may be just one more reason to distrust the healthcare system.
This fraud scheme also has a negative impact the trust nurses have in their co-workers. Right now, nurses may not know who or how many of their co-workers were involved in the scheme. We don’t know if there are other schemes out there. Theoretically there may be other schemes out there producing fraudulent “nurses.”
If a “nurse” lied and cut corners to obtain a license, what other aspects of the job are they willing to compromise?
Trust and teamwork are essential to patient safety. Receiving help from co-workers can be required to keep sick patients alive, stay afloat with busy assignments, and ensure patients receive the best care possible. Now, the question will be: Who can I trust to help me? Nurses already have a hard time seeking help. Burnout is running rampant across the profession and will only be further exacerbated when trust between co-workers is broken.