Why We Need More Male Nurses

Why We Need More Male Nurses

When I think of the nursing profession, I often think of the incredible diversity of people I’ve met in my own years of practice. I’ve worked with nurses from almost all backgrounds; nurses come from all geographical locations and socioeconomic backgrounds, all races and creeds, and they all have different levels of educational and work experience. 

Diversity among the nursing workforce is great—except for one thing. People who identify as male are far less likely to pursue a career in nursing compared to those who identify as women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, people identifying as women hold 76% of all healthcare jobs. Just look at registered nurses (RNs), where women account for over 2.4 million workers. It’s certainly not a bad thing, but the nursing profession could definitely use more male nurses.

But why? Why should people identifying as male go into a profession that’s traditionally been viewed as “women’s work”? How do we break through the stigma? There are all kinds of answers to this question. Let’s look at just a few.

Male Nurses are Role Models for Other Men

Role models have tremendous influence over other peoples’ lives by being a living example of how to treat themselves and others. Unfortunately, gender stereotypes still saturate our culture, leading many to believe that nursing is a job for women only. However, male nurses can act as role models for younger generations; male nurses working in nontraditional roles shows a different kind of compassion, integrity, and determination that might not be found elsewhere.

Male Nurses Provide Compassionate, Nurturing Care

Many mistakenly believe that men aren’t as emotionally intelligent as women. That simply isn’t true. Some of the male nurses I worked with were extremely kind and sensitive, often taking patient outcomes personally. I distinctly remember finding a male colleague crying after we’d lost a patient; I remember seeing another male nurse take the time to cuddle and comfort a crying toddler who was about to go into surgery. To those that say men can’t care for people as compassionately as women, I say this: you’re just wrong!

Some Patients Prefer Male Nurses

Just like nurses themselves, patients come from all walks of life. As such, there may be patients from different cultural backgrounds that simply prefer having a man taking care of them. Some men might not feel comfortable discussing certain issues with women. Others may prefer a male nurse for certain invasive procedures, such as the insertion of a urinary catheter. Male nurses can actually improve the patient care experience for some simply by identifying as male.

Having More Male Nurses Improves Healthcare Quality

Above all else, involving more men in the nursing profession actually helps improve patient outcomes and healthcare quality as a whole. Several research studies suggest that men are more likely to engage in preventative care if their caregivers are also men. Additionally, a man may be more likely to follow treatment recommendations if they come from another man.

But male nurses also influence how care teams work together. For example, in my last operating room (OR) job, we had several male nurses on staff. As we got to know each other, we discovered a love of gardening among several people. That started a trend where, if one of the guys grew an abundance of, say, butter beans, a pile of them would inevitably wind up in the break room, there for anyone to grab and take home to enjoy. I’d then reciprocate by bringing in a bunch of jalapeno peppers I’d grown at home.

It may seem like nothing, but the shared love of growing food (and eating it!) helped strengthen our entire OR team—which, in turn, improved the care we provided. One of the guys would stop by my room to help me position a patient for surgery before heading off to his own work tasks. Or, I’d run another nurse’s lab specimens down the hall so they didn’t have to break out of a long, complex surgery. The simple act of sharing food we’d grown dramatically improved our teamwork and consideration for our colleagues. This, in turn, led to our entire department providing higher quality care to our patients.

It’s true that male nurses are in the minority within the profession, but that can easily change. We need more male nurses to help improve the quality of care provided by bringing their unique perspective and talents into the profession. When more men become nurses, our profession will truly be as diverse as it can be.

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN

Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN began writing professionally in 2016 as a way to use her medical knowledge beyond the bedside. She obtained a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and worked as a registered nurse in multiple specialties, including pharmaceuticals, operating room/surgery, endocrinology, and family practice. With over nine years of clinical practice experience, her unique insights into the healthcare industry help her craft compelling content that targets both healthcare consumers and clinicians.

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