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 and chief clinical executive. He also is 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.

19 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.

  3. On a personal note, I think more men in nursing is something to be encouraged. A more diverse workforce leads to being able to deal with problems better. Men might be more compassionate regarding certain conditions than women. Maybe a particular patient can relate better to a male nurse. I remember spending two weeks in a hospital with a very severe case of food poisoning as a small child. I was abused by my mother emotionally, so back then I was really withdrawn from females, and I was very shy around them. All the nurses did their job well, I got better and left the hospital eventually, but in my case I could have related better to a male nurse.

  4. I am a male Nurse and I enjoy what I do even though am not gainfully employed at the moment but I think Nursing is great and more men should be encouraged to go into Nursing. Thanx

  5. Yea.we need more men in nursing because of three reasons
    1)diversity of ideas-the way a man think is different from we women and also when we have more ideas from two different homo sapiens then it brings more option and more opportunities for nurses either in politics or businesswise
    2)generalization-Some public think that female nurses dominate the profession and also the is a bias that a male nurse will not care for a patient like a female nurse.ITS TOTALLY FALSE AND SO WE NEED MANY MALE NURSE TO PROVE THAT BIAS WRONG.
    3)NURSE ACADEMIA-Nurse educator who are males re very few and so we need more male to teach nursing subject so that we will not borrow a different discipline educators to teach our subject besides if there is more male educators then there is bound to be more male nurses.

    • Abass — Thank you for your thoughtful response. I agree that diversity in nursing, especially diversity created by more representation from the male gender, can only improve patient care. And you’re right, we need more men in educator roles. Evidence has shone that male students do better in an environment where male educators are provided. I can only hope that with more men entering nursing, they will also swell the numbers of nurse educators as well.

      Thanks.

      Bob Hess

  6. I retired 5 years ago and nursing was very good to me as a male in the profession. I began as a diploma graduate and retired with an MSN. I never noticed any pay difference in any of my positions and that was staff nurse, nurse educator and a Navy Nurse Corps officer. I highly encourage more men to enter the nursing profession.

    • Dale — You join the general consensus that more men in nursing would be a good thing across the profession. I appreciate your thoughtful response.

      Thanks.

      Bob Hess

    • Dale — I agree that there are areas in nursing with little to no difference between genders. I also believe that when a pay discrepancy arises, attention should be taken to the detail underlying that differences, so we can better understand the true magnitude of gender-related pay differences.

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

      Bob Hess, PhD, RN, FAAN

  7. More important than the number of men or women nurses is the quality of our nurses. We must focus on providing the support to the nurses who are there. Right now we are short of nurses because of the reputation nursing has. Many are afraid to become a nurse because of the reputation we have created, collectively; the way we speak of the profession (from my experience). It is important for us to stand strong and united in our profession and be proud of who we are and what we do, from a constructive place so as to attract more male or female nurses. Let’s put our differences aside and recruit who ever has the desire to be a nurse. We don’t need more men or less women, we just need nurses who care and we welcome them with open arms.

    • Liliane — Yes, the quality of our nurses is key, although I sometimes think that diversity can help, even in terms of gender.

      I can say that depending on where you live and work, nursing has a variable reputation, for example, in many parts of our country, people are flocking to nursing with the passion that fueled many of us in the early stages of our nursing careers.

      Thanks for sharing your view.

      Dr Bob, RN

  8. Hi Dr. Hess,
    I am currently a male dental hygienist. I live in Palm Harbor, Florida and I am very interested in becoming a male nurse. Are there any programs available in my state that offer a “work while you learn program”? Or is there any current nursing programs available that will pay for me to learn to become a nurse.

    • Curtis — Entry into nursing programs is highly competitive thee days, and I don;t know of a NJ program that would pay you to go to school. I would suggest that you start investigating the NJ BSN programs. If you don’t already have a degree, you might have to start from scratch. You’ll have enthusiastic company though. I will send this off line to make sure you get this.

      Dr Bob, RN

  9. A key reason we need more male nurses is because many men are modest and shy away from healthcare because they face a sea of female nurses and techs at every turn when it comes to intimate exams and procedures. Society deems it not manly and a sign of weakness for a man to be modest, so few men will speak up. They just avoid healthcare until it is not possible to do so anymore. A few male nurses in urology, ultrasound, and other areas where intimate exposure is common would go a long way.

    • Thanks for this unique response that brings attention to a dimension not commonly addressed. Well done.

      Thanks.

      Dr Bob, RN

  10. I am a new graduate who just started working nights on a telemetry unit in NY. The floor I was hired for previously had only one male nurse working for them, but they just hired three male nurses at the same time as I was hired. The overall consensus of more male nurses on the floor is positive from the nursing staff and even mid-level practitioners working on my unit. They feel that is allows for more ideas to be expressed and levels out the overly estrogren-ized atmosphere. I am proud to be in a male working in the nursing profession, and hope for continued receptiveness throughout my career.

    • Brendan — I too started my career on units where an influx of men in nursing as a part of my new grad cohort changed things, the work atmosphere, communication, and other things.

      We are always happy to get more men with the right stuff. Keep in touch please regarding this topic.

      Thanks.

      Dr Bob, RN

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