Men in nursing school is on the rise! When I started nursing school in 2010, there were less than ten male nursing students in a class of 200. A few of them were transitioning from careers in firefighting and para-medicine to nursing. They stated that job security and pay were factors in their decision, but what about the ability to care more holistically? Nursing holds the unfortunate stereotype of being viewed as a less masculine career.
A survey of almost five hundred men, 73 percent of men claimed that the negative stereotypes contributed to the shortage of men in nursing. About 60 percent claimed that in previous generations, nursing was viewed as a female profession. Interestingly, 42 percent felt that men lack “male models and mentors in the field” (Weber, Why men choose nursing). Despite these perceptions, men can make excellent nurses and can defy the status quo.
Men In Nursing Gender Bias
Gender biases are in our heads – Men are equally as capable at providing care as women and the present gender biases can be broken with the quality of care provided. Unless it is a cultural consideration, you will find most patients are accepting of male nurses. In fact, I have worked with patients on a ward who will listen to no one but the only male registered nurse on the floor.
Approach patients with empathy, confidence and perhaps a sense of humor or humility. It can be helpful to have a male mentor who can give you tips on skills like how to teach breastfeeding to a new mom or how to perform physical assessments.
Overcome the discomfort you may feel in your role – You are a nurse, not a male nurse. We would not identify a lawyer as a female lawyer. Some nurses find that patient’s assume they are a doctor when they walk into a room. Rather than be discouraged, just remind the patient you are their nurse and part of a care team who is there to take care of them. According to Robert Sabbara, an Emergency Nurse Practitioner, “ one of the hardest things he faces is people automatically assuming he is gay and that female nurses have more empathy.”
The only way you can change perceptions is by providing excellent care and building trust with patients. Trust is built on therapeutic relationships. Research has shown that patient’s rate a doctor’s competence on their bedside manner rather than their actual clinical competence.
Don’t Take Things Personally
Occasionally, patients will refuse personal care from you or request that a female nurse take care of them. Do not take this personally. Recognize that patients have the ability to exercise autonomy over their care. You may find that you are a minority in your work environment. It is important to seek out the greater community. There are groups for men in nursing such as AAMN where men can seek camaraderie and mentorship.
Play To Your Strengths
Men may be physically stronger. You can play to your strengths by assisting other nurses with transfers or boosting patients in bed. Nurses rely heavily on teamwork and if you help a coworker, they are likely to help you in return. As a man in nursing, you are likely to be a newer graduate. You have been privy to the latest evidence-based practice, so you can likely be a clinical resource for others. As stated before, some patients respond better to a male therapeutic relationship.
Male Nurse Career Mobility
Interestingly, men in nursing are over represented in leadership roles and other prestigious specialties. Men in nursing earn more than women on average (Kleinman, 2004). Being a male nurse can benefit rather than hinder your career. If we capitalize on the benefits offered to both men in nursing we can recruit and keep them in the field. Earning a great salary and career advancement do not discriminate by gender. Having the privilege to care for others is a universal benefit.
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