Making the case for more men in nursing




My opinion on men in nursing

You might find it surprising, but some of my female colleagues think a big bolus of testosterone (I’m paraphrasing) would improve the nursing profession. They think more male nurses would take this group to new heights that women alone could not achieve otherwise and it would improve everyone’s careers. To be clear, this is not my opinion. But I posted this on my Facebook page to see what my friends had a lot to say.

• Stacey Davis, BSN, RN, CCRN, Kennedy Health System in New Jersey: “Women feel men bring a professionalism to the profession, less estrogen and emotion.”

• Diane Lofredo, MSN, RN-BC, Florida: “The public and our profession needs more smart, caring, dedicated nurses — male or female, it makes no difference.”

• Nancy C. Sharts-Hopko, PhD, RN, FAAN, professor and PhD program director, Villanova University College of Nursing PhD, RN, professor, College of Nursing, Villanova University (and married to a man in nursing): “Well, the influx of men into K-12 education after the Korean War and the GI bill professionalized it. I hate to say that as a feminist, but that reformed salaries, benefits and governance.”

• Susan Swinehart, OTD, MS, OTR, FAOTA, clinical editor, occupational therapy, OnCourse Learning: “I think that most professions would benefit from a more diverse representation of gender, age and beliefs within the workforce. Diversity provides the basis for creativity.”

• Lauren Hess, PhD, former assistant professor of child and adolescent development, Purdue University, Indiana: “It is a sad state of affairs when a female-dominated career needs men to lend it legitimacy … Much like teaching. Perhaps the logic is that introducing more men would raise the pay scale? That in and of itself is a sad, but true, fact in male-dominated professions (women make 72 cents on the dollar that men make for equal work).”

“The public and our profession needs more smart, caring, dedicated nurses — male or female, it makes no difference.”

No one on social media thought nursing wouldn’t benefit in some way from more men. Here’s a common bottom line: More men means more money, something about which I thought I had expertise.

State of affairs

Last year, one nurse posted about the disgraceful state of affairs with men making more money than women in nursing. I foolishly wrote that this was old news. The only thing that was old was my knowledge and lack of research. For example, a University of San Francisco study of data from 1988 to 2008, extended to 2013, demonstrated male nurses made an adjusted $5,148 per year more than female nurses. This inequality has persisted over 20 years with no discernible trend toward resolution in the future. However, the question remains: Does more men mean more money for all nurses or more money for those men?

The percentage of men in nursing has slowly risen from about 2% in 1975 when I entered nursing to almost 12% (or 330,300 nurses) now. The percentages of men also are low in other traditionally female-dominated healthcare professional groups, such as:

• Physical therapy, 36%

• Social work, 18% and falling

• Massage therapy, 11%

• Occupational therapy, 6%

• Dietetics/nutrition, 3%. The male dietitians even have their own special interest group, the National Organization of Men in Nutrition to promote dietetics careers for men.

Last year, one nurse posted about the disgraceful state of affairs with men making more money than women in nursing. I foolishly wrote that this was old news. The only thing that was old was my knowledge and lack of research.”

No group in nursing has been more active in advocating for more men than the American Association for Men in Nursing. I just finished a two-year tenure as a director on its board, and I can attest that this scrappy bunch is teetering on the brink of becoming a world-class professional organization. I would still be involved as a director had the membership elected me to a second term (note to membership, please elect me next year). AAMN’s goal is raising the percentage of men in nursing to 20% by 2020.

If you know some guys with the right stuff to become nurses, please encourage and support them into the profession. And the AAMN is looking for more than a few good men. If you would like to help the cause in general, you might think about becoming involved. They’re not only looking for a few good men, but also a few good women to help those men along. You could make a difference, and the fallout could even fund your career.


About the author
Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN 

Robert G. Hess Jr., PhD, RN, FAAN, is OnCourse Learning's executive vice president of education programs & credentialing, healthcare, and founder and CEO of the Forum for Shared Governance (www.SharedGovernance.org). As an editor for Nurse.com/Nursing Spectrum, Hess penned editorials on career topics. As a presenter at professional conferences, Hess often addresses participants on how to find the right job and steps for building a successful career. Join his Facebook followers at Robert G Hess Jr.

4 responses to “Making the case for more men in nursing”

  1. It has been my experience that male nurses are paid either equally or less than their female counterparts. In addition, leadership positions are often times offered to other females whom are friends or long term acquaintances of the hiring manager

  2. As a Nurse and a mother, I am proud to have a son who found his way into the nursing profession. I never dreamed one of my sons would follow in my footsteps. And very successfully I may add.

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