Pharmacists rate high on ‘ethics and honesty’

Pharmacists are still near the top of the list of well-regarded professions – but there’s been a big drop in their rating since COVID

Roy Morgan Image of Professions Survey 2021 has found that health professionals are again Australia’s top-rated workers.

Nurses took out the top spot, with 88% of Australians rating them “high” or “very high” for their ethics and honesty. This was the 24th such survey in a row topped by the profession.

Doctors came in second, on 82%; and pharmacists were third, with 76%.

But of the 30 professions examined in 2021, only one – union leaders – increased their rating compared to four years ago.

The other 29 are held in lower regard than they were in 2017, before the pandemic.

Pharmacists’ rating was down 8% from 2017, while nurses’ rating had dropped 6%, doctors’ rating had dropped 7% and dentists’ rating had dropped 8%, to 71%.

This was the lowest rating for pharmacists since Australia’s last recession, in 1991 (also 76%).

Roy Morgan speculates that there could be several reasons the reputations of most professions took a hit, such as the rise of “fake news” and increasing distrust of social media platforms; the outcome of the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation, and Financial Services Industry; and the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nurses have been front and centre around the world during the last year as we’ve dealt with the ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine.

“Luckily for local nurses Australia has dealt exceptionally well with the pandemic and we have largely avoided an out of control situation, although many Victorians would fairly argue we came close during the middle of 2020.

“Once again other professions entrusted with looking after our health are close behind with doctors on 82% and pharmacists on 76%, filling out the second and third spots overall – although all three leaders have declined from four years ago.

“The biggest loser from this year’s Image of Professions survey is the police, who have experienced a significant fall and are now rated highly for their ‘ethics and honesty’ by a bare majority of 51% of Australians – down 25% points from 2017,” Ms Levine said.

“Notably, the lowest rating of any mainland State is Victoria at only 49%. Victorians told us in detail the issues they had with the local police in mid-September 2020 during the State’s long second lockdown – with the enforcement of COVID-19 related laws and the high profile ‘Lawyer X’ scandal emerging as key issues for respondents.

“The standout performer in a tough year for everyone has been union leaders – the only profession to improve their standing for ‘ethics and honesty’ compared to four years ago – up by 2% to 19%. 

“However, despite the improvement union leaders still rate amongst the bottom half of professions just behind bank managers (20%), lawyers (26%) and public servants (27%).

“The real stragglers are a familiar bunch with insurance brokers (7%), real estate agents (5%), advertising people (4%) and car salesmen (3%) all filling the bottom four positions for the fourth straight survey.”

The National President of the Pharmacy Guild, Professor Trent Twomey, said, “The continuing high level of trust for pharmacists is not surprising, given the outstanding lengths they have gone to over recent times to help patients”.

“Community pharmacists are consistently rated as one of the most trusted professions, and that trust is both earned and deserved and has been reinforced over the past year,” he told the AJP.

“Their accessibility, professional knowledge and commitment to patients will continue to see them rank highly.

“Recent crises have had a major impact on pharmacies and how they interact with their patients.

“Each pharmacy has developed its own unique structures to enable them to continue to meet the health needs of the communities they serve.”

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