According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of 2019 more than 12% of Registered Nurses in the U.S. are men. And while nursing has been a historically female-dominated industry, the tide is certainly changing for gender equality in all professions.
In recent years the nursing profession has been perceived as the smart profession to pursue, as it’s known to provide financial security and long-term employment, something that’s not necessarily guaranteed in other more precarious fields where outsourcing poses a real threat to job security. With a flexible schedule and the ability to choose from a variety of different shifts, along with an array of benefits and the promise of a generous pension, it might seem obvious that the benefits gained from a career in nursing wouldn’t deter anyone from pursuing this field regardless of their gender. However, despite the growing trend of increasing demand for nurses, it’s still a profession that is largely dominated by women. Though men are in no way barred from entering this line of work, there are various obstacles they face when pursuing this predominantly female field.
There’s no doubt that there are far more female nurses than there is male. When entering a hospital or doctor’s office a common sight would be that of a female nurse donned in a pale blue nurse’s smock, strolling through the long, well-lit halls, attending to a variety of ill patients. What about men? How often do we see the same number of men wearing the same uniform, performing the same tasks?
What deters more men from entering the field?
Although the benefits of becoming a nurse are enormous, as are the challenges, it’s enough to make one wonder what exactly deters more men from entering the field. Is it a social stigma that still lingers? Do men just feel that nursing isn’t nearly as prestigious as other medical professions? But there are various legitimate reasons that both prevent and attract men to nursing, whether they are social or financial which are increasingly used to justify a man’s decision to enter into the profession despite some of its challenges.
In this past recession, thousands of people lost their jobs, jobs that were either outsourced or disappeared altogether as a result of the economic crisis. The one area, however, that saw more of a growth in employment was the healthcare field, which could easily have contributed to the larger number of men who decided that this was the right field to pursue, as it provided more security and stability than did other fields.
Research with male nurses and students reveals a number of barriers against men in nursing. Nursing continues to be viewed as women’s work, a profession supporting the stereotypical feminine traits of nurturing, caring, and gentleness, in contrast to masculine characteristics of strength, aggression, and dominance. Traditional representations in the media of nurses as angels, battle-axes, bimbos, sex symbols, and doctors’ handmaidens only perpetuate the feminine image of nursing. The U.S. Department of Labor in the Occupational Outlook Handbook describes the qualifications needed for nurses as, “Nurses should be caring, sympathetic, responsible, and detail-oriented,” traits often thought of as more maternal and feminine than masculine.
Men inside the profession report workplace discrimination, saying certain job areas are not open to them. Female colleagues can sometimes perceive them as muscle, helpful to have around when something heavy, difficult, or violent needs to be dealt with. Men nurses report needing to be careful about what they say (not appear chauvinistic), how they act (not appear chivalrous), and how they touch colleagues and patients (not sexual). Both male nurses and students express concerns about the feminization of nursing traditions, such as milestones in nursing education (pinning, capping, graduation ceremonies) or annual celebrations of Nurses’ Week. Men also relay a tension between being expected to be assertive and assume leadership responsibilities and being viewed as “ladder-climbers.” Sadly, men in nursing say they are sometimes viewed as effeminate and even homosexual by those outside the profession, especially other men.
Watch the following video to know – men in nursing
What are the benefits of becoming a male nurse?
The benefits of a nursing career – from job security to flexibility to the reward of helping people in very tangible and immediate ways – certainly don’t extend to just one gender. And many predict that the demand for more males and non-female genders in the nursing profession will only continue to grow.
Here’s more on why nursing is a great choice for men to get into right now.
- Stable Pay: Men who move into female-dominated careers such as nursing will tend to see a 3.8% rise in their pay.
- Career Stability: The demand for Registered Nurses is predicted to exceed 3.19 million by 2024.
- Career Flexibility: Nursing is a unique field that allows for part-time, full-time, variable, per diem, or combination shifts. And because many male nurses enter the field mid-career, flexibility maybe even more prized.
- Scholarships for Male Nurses: There are a variety of scholarships available to prospective male nurses, such as those offered through the American Association of Male Nurses.
- Travel Opportunities: Male nurses who are interested in travel can enter the field of travel nursing to try their hand at learning new skills and traveling to new places.
What are the most popular specialties for male nurses?
There are male nurses in every nurse specialty– from obstetrics to geriatrics to sexual assault examiners. But there seem to be certain specialties that attract a larger number of men. Some of the more popular specialties for male nurses include:
- Emergency Room Nurse: ER nurses deal with everything that comes through a hospital door, from trauma to life-threatening emergencies to small-town routine procedures. Pay can vary widely based on the geographical area, and specialization within the ER is also available.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): One of the highest-paying professions in the nursing field, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists provide anesthesia care for patients undergoing surgical procedures.
- ICU Nurse: ICU nurses may have the opportunity to make as much as $100K per year, depending on things like specialty certification.
- Critical Care Nurse: A critical care nurse treats patients with acute, even life-threatening injuries or medical issues.
- Flight Nurse: Flight nurses work with other trained medical professionals like paramedics and physicians to ensure patients are well-cared for during transit and reach their end destination safely.
Answer the calling
There is clearly a wide range of reasons why men have chosen to pursue nursing as a career, a profession that was, at one point, almost entirely dominated by women. There are just far too many benefits that come along with nursing, such as a flexible schedule, a secure position, and high pay, and so it’s therefore difficult for anyone to refuse to pursue a field that only continues to grow. However, mainly as a result of old stereotypes and the general perception that nursing is a woman’s field, nursing has continued to remain a job occupied predominantly by women.
As you can see, men in nursing are out there and they’re making a significant difference each and every day. While stereotypes may lead some people to believe that nursing remains a female-only field, this is far from the truth. Males are needed in the nursing profession. They are valued members of the healthcare team and make a significant impact on patients’ lives.
And with the healthcare field growing, it’s more important than ever to have a diverse workforce. If you’re ready to look past the stereotypes and answer the calling to become a nurse, there’s no better time than now.
“Men desire to be caring, and you get a chance to have a career that allows you to care for people meaningfully.” — Graham Seaton
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