Web Exclusive: Surviving as a Male Nurse on the Night Shift

By | 2022-02-08T14:42:10-05:00 October 20th, 2008|0 Comments

Despite more men entering the nursing profession, their presence in wards continues to raise eyebrows among patients and families. Male nurses have been accepted by healthcare colleagues in ERs, ICUs, and on medical/surgical floors, as long as they don’t venture into what are considered “taboo” areas, such as labor and delivery or women’s centers. As a male nurse, I can understand how uncomfortable it may be for a woman in labor to have a male nurse present or for a female patient to have a male nurse teach her how to perform breast self-exams. There is an unmarked line male nurses know they cannot cross.

However, one area that sometimes sits beyond that line can be reached, with care. Pediatrics can be fun and rewarding. It takes patience, energy, and lots of imagination to care for the pediatric patient. Pediatric nursing is a unique specialty where, for the most part, the patient is treated while the information and teaching is directed toward the parents. The ages for these patients range from birth to 21 years old in some hospitals.

Night Shift Wariness

Imagine yourself as the parent of a 5-year-old female patient admitted to the hospital for the first time learning your nurse for the night shift is a male who will be coming into her room to administer an antibiotic while you and your daughter are asleep. Would you be concerned? “No, not really. I will be there with my daughter and I know that nurses are professional, regardless if they are male or female,” says Ana Martinez, the mother of such a patient.

Now imagine that in another room a 16-year-old female patient will be sleeping alone and is also assigned a male nurse. Would you be concerned now? “I probably would have some concern, but I guess if I talked to him first, I might feel differently about it,” says one female adolescent patient.

It would be unrealistic to believe an occasional cloud of suspicion doesn’t hang over us. That is the price we pay for being the minority in such a profession.

Although, as male nurses we are concerned with the safety of our patients, which includes safe medication administration, proper assessments, and anticipation of our patients’ needs, we must also address the safety concerns of our patients’ parents. The anxiety a parent feels when his or her child is first admitted can sometimes be compounded by the thought of a male nurse entering the child’s room in the middle of the night.

Proactive Strategies

The responsibility for parents accepting us as their children’s nurses does not fall on the parents, but on us. There are some simple steps we can take to diminish parents’ concerns over thier children having a male nurse. “I like to enter the room in the middle of the night with a soft knock, followed by a soft voice stating that I am going to give your child their medication,” says Gustavo Rocha, RN, BSN, on how he manages his approach.

When introducing yourself to the parents at the beginning of the shift, take the proactive approach and explain that their child’s medication is due at 2 a.m. and you will be coming in at that hour so the parents can anticipate you entering the room while they are sleeping. Turning on low, dim lights when possible can also help parents feel at ease because they can see exactly what you are doing.

A new policy that is indirectly helping at Miami Children’s Hospital is providing parents with a copy of the on-duty nurse’s medication administration record for each shift. The MAR shows the times medications are scheduled, which can be used to discuss with parents what times you will be entering the room in the middle of the night. “I think it’s a good idea because it won’t be a surprise to see him come in the room three or four times in the middle of the night,” says Lisa Sylven, the mother of a newly admitted patient.

A male nurse faces many challenges working the night shift, but with a few simple precautions, the night can go smoothly.

Richard Bolanos, RN, CPN, is a dialysis nurse in pediatrics at Miami Children’s Hospital.

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