By Shawn Kennedy, AJN editorial director/interim editor-in-chief

On his blog yesterday, health news watchdog Gary Schwitzer’s note about a conference he attended on whether pharmaceutical companies should fund medical education pointed out that “nurses are not immune from drug industry influence.” He focused, though, just on NPs who prescribe medications. ALL nurses are subject to influence.

When’s the last time you were at a large nursing conference? I go to many—at the major meetings, the exhibit halls are filled with vendors giving away everything from free ice cream and pens (I once collected 32 just to see how many I could get) to mugs and cash. If you filled out surveys, giveaways were worth more—you could be put in a drawing for a laptop or iPhone.

The danger of an NP succumbing to influence is obvious—she or he may prescribe for reasons (which may be on an unconscious level) other than clinical ones. The issues for nurses who do not prescribe medications are subtle and different. AJN‘s ethics columnist Doug Olsen did a two-part series exploring this last year—in January and February 2009. And AJN‘s editor-in-chief emeritus Diana Mason wrote on this even earlier, in an editorial in December 2000, noting, among other concerns, that “it’s not unusual to see drug company underwriting of speakers at nursing conferences; of course, the topic addressed is almost always related to one of the company’s top drugs.”

Nurses have been proud of our high ranking on Gallup polls as one of the most trusted professions. We need to make sure we continue to earn that ranking.

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