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RWJF Gallup Survey Finds Nurses Should Have More Influence


Groundbreaking New Survey Finds that Diverse Opinion Leaders Say Nurses Should Have More Influence on Health Systems and Services Opinion Leaders Trust Nurses, but Cite Barriers to Nursing Leadership

Princeton, NJ: From reducing medical errors, to increasing the quality of care, to promoting wellness, to improving efficiency and reducing costs, a new survey finds that an overwhelming majority of opinion leaders say nurses should have more influence. But these opinion leaders—including insurance, corporate, health services, government and industry thought leaders as well as university faculty—see significant barriers that prevent nurses from fully participating as leaders in health and health care. Those are key findings from a first-of-its-kind survey, Nursing Leadership from Bedside to Boardroom: Opinion Leaders’ Perceptions, conducted by Gallup on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Gallup interviewed 1,504 opinion leaders across key roles and industries for the survey, which was conducted Aug 18-Oct 30, 2009.

Gallup historically has found nursing ranked among the most ethical and honest professions by the nation’s adults. This new survey finds that opinion leaders also view nurses as one of the most trusted sources of health information, but see nurses as having less influence on health care reform than government, insurance and pharmaceutical executives and others. Yet a strong majority of respondents say nurses should have more influence than they do now on health policy, planning and management.

“Nurses are highly trusted sources of health care information, but as we look to reform our health system, our nation is not taking advantage of all that nurses have to offer,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D. M.B.A., president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “This survey shows that opinion leaders recognize that we are squandering opportunities to learn from nurses and implement their ideas. We must build on the widespread trust of nurses’ expertise as an essential component in leading and implementing reform.”

Gallup Contact:
Eric Nielsen 202-715-3030 or
Gretchen Wright at 202-371-1999 or

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Contacts:
Adam Coyne at 609-627-5937or
Virginia Bader at 202-745-5100 or

Opinion leaders identify as major barriers to increased influence for nurses that nurses are not perceived as important decision makers or revenue generators compared with doctors, and do not have a single voice on national issues. Opinion leaders rank nurses behind six other stakeholders when it comes to influencing health reform over the next five to ten years.

“It is obvious that nurses have the expertise, experience, knowledge and skills necessary to improve health care delivery and the health of individuals,” said Reed V. Tuckson, M.D., F.A.C.P., executive vice president and chief of medical affairs for UnitedHealth Group. “Every day, I see nurses exercise their clinical judgment and leadership skills to make important and much-needed changes that increase access to and improve the quality and affordability of health care. Therefore, it is essential that we do more to support nurses in taking on leadership positions and ensure that they have a place and a voice at decision-making tables.”

Other key findings from the new Gallup survey:

  • Opinion leaders feel that nurses’ primary areas of influence are reducing medical errors (51%), improving quality of care (50%), and coordinating patient care in the health care system (40%).
  • Large majorities of opinion leaders said they would like to see nurses have more influence in a large number of areas, including reducing medical errors and improving patient safety (90%); improving quality of care (89%); promoting wellness and expanding preventive care (86%); improving health care efficiency and reducing costs (84%); coordinating care through the health care system (83%); helping the health care system adapt to an aging population (83%); and increasing access to health care (74%).
  • Seventy-five percent of opinion leaders say government officials will have a great deal of influence in health reform in the next five to ten years, compared to 56% for insurance executives, 46% for pharmaceutical executives, 46% for healthcare executives, 37% for doctors, 20% for patients and 14% for nurses.
  • Opinion leaders identified the top barriers to nurses’ increased influence and leadership as not being perceived as important decision makers (69%) or revenue generators (68%) compared with doctors; nurses’ focus on primary rather than preventive care (62%); and nursing not having a single voice in speaking on national issues (56%).

Methodology—The survey was conducted by Gallup on behalf of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Results are based on telephone interviews with 1,504 national opinion leaders, (aggregating samples of several types of leaders) conducted Aug 18-Oct 30 2009. For results based on a random a sample of this size, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error is ±3 percentage points. In addition to sampling error, and the specified representation of different types of opinion leaders interviewed, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, we work with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years we’ve brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those we serve. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, we expect to make a difference in your lifetime.

About Gallup

For more than 70 years, Gallup has been a recognized leader in the measurement and analysis of people’s attitudes, opinions and behavior. While best known for the Gallup Poll, founded in 1935, Gallup’s current activities consist largely of providing marketing and management research, advisory services and education to the world’s largest corporations and institutions.

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Contacts:

Adam Coyne at 609-627-5937 or

Virginia Bader at 202-745-5100 or

Gallup Contact:

Eric Nielsen 202-715-3030 or

Gretchen Wright at 202-371-1999 or

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