Nursing has a media identity problem, and it extends to men in nursing. For every sexy nurse Halloween costume, there is a patient refusing care from a nurse who is also a man. For every nurse-bitch portrayal, there is a gay male nurse joke.
Occasionally, I read comments saying something like, “It’s about time men are exposed to what women have to endure in the workplace: less respect, lower pay, fewer promotions.” Women experience these inequities, but punishing another group instead is not the way to promote equality in the workplace.
According to a report published by the WSJ, the number of men in nursing has tripled since 1970 to nearly 10 percent. Men choose nursing for the same reasons women do: job stability, flexible hours, skill variety, and opportunity for promotion. Interestingly, according to the same report, men in nursing earn more money than women in nursing. This is not attributed to gender bias, but instead to choices: Men are less likely to enter nursing as LPNs, more likely to enter nursing at the BSN level or higher, and more likely to become “nurse anesthetists (41 percent), who earn nearly $148,000 on average, but only 8 percent of licensed practical nurses, who make just $35,000.” Men are also more likely to work full time than their female counterparts.
Still, men in nursing report problems of gender bias within our profession. A few common complaints are:
- The persistent myth that men are less caring than women. The statement is rather a paradox considering the volume of information about bullying among nurses.
- Many men complain that they endure more scrutiny and criticism of their nursing skills than their female counterparts.
- The existence of tenacious stereotypes, which belittle all nurses.
- Don’t call me a “male nurse” or “murse.” Like firefighter, soldier, pilot, and physician, the title nurse is only gender specific from a gender-biased perspective.
Why wouldn’t a person of any gender not want to work in a profession combing the education, technical skills, and personal interaction found in nursing? Add in nursing’s flexible hours, stable employment, and its identity as the most trusted profession? It is a disservice to discourage anyone with what it takes from entering our ranks.
So the next time your child’s elementary school teacher invites you to Career Day, if you are a woman, bring along one of your male colleagues, and begin changing the image of nurses for the children we are raising.
And a word to the guys: If you’re the new nurse in a unit of women, please leave the seat down in the staff restroom. This can make or break your relationship with colleagues.
Will we ever reach a point in the nursing profession where stereotyping no longer exists? What experiences or suggestions would you share?