It is Time to Recruit More Men into the Profession of Nursing
Submitted by Maureen Kroning, RN EdD
Written by Isaiah Monroe (Nyack College, BSN student) & Maureen Kroning RN EdD (Associate Professor of Nursing, Nyack College, NY)
The medical field is one that is constantly changing. Everyday new discoveries are made in terms of disease, medications, and medical procedures. One prevalent change has been the appearance of male nurses working in hospitals and other areas of health care today. The growth of men in nursing has been slow but steady. Today, if you work in healthcare you will find male nurses working in healthcare facilities and enrolled in nursing schools around the country. However, it has not been an easy transition for many males entering the profession of nursing. The addition of male nurses in healthcare has raised the following question: is there a benefit to having men in nursing? We first need to understand the history of nursing and how women have come to dominate the profession and then how the addition of men entering the profession is a benefit to not only the healthcare institutions but to the profession of nursing and to patient care.
Women in Nursing
Nursing’s history has shown that the profession of nursing has always been a female dominated profession. In fact, women were instrumental in both founding and evolving nursing as the profession it is today. According to Egenes (2009), during primitive times the role of nursing was assigned to women due to their ability to nurture their own infants. This led to the assumption that women could and would do the same for those who were sick or injured. In the Christian era, the nursing ideals of charity, service to others and self-sacrifice were values of the church and thus, many hospitals built were run by nuns (Engenes).
In 1854, Florence Nightingale led a group of female nurses to deliver care to British soldiers during the Crimean War and went on to create nursing programs in British hospitals. Florence Nightingale recognized the need to educate women about the promotion of health in order to achieve wellness (ANA). War throughout history has relied on nursing to care for the injured and sick. When we think of early times we often think of just women in the role of a nurse. But, according to the American Nurses Association, male nurses have served as far back as in the Civil War where an estimated 20,000 nurses composed of both men and women cared wounded and sick soldiers (ANA). Nursing is a profession that has been dominated by women yet; today we are seeing more men entering the profession.
Men in Nursing
According to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2011) men have played an essential role in opening of the first nursing school in India in 250 B.C. and new hospitals during the Black Plague. According to the American Nurses Association, in the late twentieth century nursing “abandoned its objectable system of racial and gender segregation, opening up equal educational, professional, and employment opportunity to all nurses” (p. 9-10). According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2013) in 2011 out of the 3.5 million nurses working, 3.2 million were female and 330,000 were male. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2011) in 2000 there were 7.7% of males in nursing while in 2010 there were 9.1% of male nurses.
According to the National League for Nursing (2013) in 2012, 16% of men were enrolled in Associate level nursing program, 13% were enrolled in a Bachelorette nursing program and 11% were enrolled in Master’s and Doctorate programs.
Bias and Stereotype
According to Bartfay, Bartfay, Clow & Wu (2010) research findings suggested that society still feels that nursing is a more suitable profession for women and the perception and stereotypes assume male nurses are gay, less compassionate and caring compared to female nurses. According to Bailey (2014), men in nursing experience bias, discrimination and disproportionate levels of discipline. Organizations such as, The American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) have felt the need to confront much of the stereotypes and biases against men in nursing and work to improve gender inclusion and promote both belonging and learning environments so that their members can excel in the profession of nursing.
Meadus & Twomey (2011) studied male student experiences in a predominated female centered baccalaureate nursing program and found issues related to gender bias in nursing education and nursing practice as well as society’s perception that nursing is not a suitable profession for men. Dr. O’Lynn (2013) reported that there is strong evidence of Gender Role Conflict among nursing academia institutions about the role and image of nursing that has lasted for over 150 years. In fact Dr. O’Lynn developed a tool to assess nursing schools level of male friendliness. While having men in nursing can prove to be beneficial, female nurses were and still are often viewed as a better choice to provide compassionate care for patients.
As a nurse educator for over 10 years approximately 7-10% of each nursing course includes men. There are many times that male nursing students are assigned to care for elderly female patients and this presents a problem when the patient refuses to have the male student nurse care for them. However, the female patient that refuses to be cared for by a male student often reports that this is because they feel uncomfortable to undress or be examined by a male student. As a nurse, we must respect our patient’s wishes and thus place the male nursing student with a patient that is agreeable to have the student care for them. However, when a male nursing student is placed with a male patient, the patient has expressed comfort with having open conversations with the male nursing student versus the female nursing student. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation reports that patients are receptive to nurses with similar or same culture and this may also be the same for gender. Patients as well as nurses can benefit from men working in the nursing profession.
The Benefit of Men in Nursing
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) reported that both patients and nurses will benefit from men working in the nursing profession and more men need to be recruited into the profession. Men in nursing have many benefits to the profession of nursing, the healthcare institutions staff, and to patients. According to Lecher RN, President of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, male nurses will be instrumental in helping to solve the nursing shortage and are essential part of the equation. Another benefit for men in nursing is a more due to the male’s physical attribute of strength compared to that of most females. The majority of males tend to be stronger than women which helps when patients require transport from one unit to another and often need placed from the stretcher to a bed. Often female nurses will request the assistance from a male nurse or nurse’s aide so that the transfer can occur efficiently and safe. As we have seen with female patients preferring to be cared for by a female nurse or doctor then maybe males may also prefer to be cared for by someone of the same sex. For instance if a male or female is having a problem or procedure that requires genital exam or treatment than often the patient will seek a healthcare provider of the same sex. Dr. Joel Sherman (2010) states that, patients prefer gender specific medical care as seen with women preferring to receive obstetrics and gynecology care from women and 30-50% of men prefer male healthcare providers to perform urology exams but unfortunately 90% of nurses, technicians and assistants still remain women leaving little choice for men to have care provided to by men. According to Williams (1995) even though the number of male nurses is considerably lower than the number of female nurses, males nurses earn more money, are overrepresented in leadership positions and often are employed in nursing specialty areas. Williams also stated that, there are hidden advantages of men in the nursing profession such as: hiring and promotion, relationships with healthcare providers and their colleagues and the positive relationships with patients. “Administrators are encouraged to develop more gender-sensitive criteria for evaluating performance that reward both reputedly "masculine" and "feminine" qualities (Williams p. 63) . We need to encourage and recruit more men into nursing and to recognize the contributions that both male and female nurses make to the profession.
It is a benefit to have men working in the profession of nursing. We need to recruit more men into our nursing schools and to work in our healthcare institutions. Both male and female nurses bring different perspectives and benefits to the profession of nursing and to the patient’s they care for. The ability of men to negotiate and obtain higher salaries and positions in both administration and nursing specialty areas may serve as the impetus to elevate the entire nursing profession. Perhaps, one day there will be less biases and stereotypes of male nurses and with time hopefully more men will be working alongside female nurses in all areas of healthcare. For now, men may be the “nursing’s minority”, but that is only in number, and does not reflect their expertise or ability to provide safe quality patient care.
- American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) Iron Sharpens Iron
- American Nurses Association. American Nursing: An Introduction to the Past.
- Bailey, A. (2014). Men in nursing: masculine gender role stress and job satisfaction. Duquesne University. Duquesne University.
- Bartfay, W. , Bartfay,E., Clow, K., & Wu, T.(2010). Attitudes and Perceptions towrds Men in Nursing Education. The Internet Jounral of Allied Health Sciences and Practice 8(2). 1-7.
- Egenes, K. (2009). History of Nursing. Issues an Trends in Nursing: Essential Knowledge for Today and Tomorrow. Jones & Barlett Publishing.
- Instituite of Medicine (IOM)
- Meadus, R., & Twomey, J. (2007). Men in nursing: making the right choice. The Canadian Nurse , 103 (2), 13-16.
- National League of Nursing cited in ANA
- O'Lynn, C. (2013). The Inventory of Male Friendliness in Nursing Programs.
- Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (2011). Male Nurses Break Through Barriers to Diversify Profession.
- Sherman, J. (2010). Patient gender preferences for medical care. KevinMD
- U.S Census Bureau (2013). Men in Nursing Occupations.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2011). The US. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education.