Nurse is Not Gender Specific

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.

Don't Call Me Murse by jparadisi

Don’t Call Me Murse by jparadisi

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?

Nine Fictional Clinicians I’d Like to Meet (Yeah 9 Not 10. I’m Picky)

In nursing, where years of working long hours can leave us feeling at times as if the tumor always wins, finding meaning is essential to happiness. People find meaning in different ways — some through spiritual practices such as meditation, others at a church, temple, or faith center.

photo by jparadisi

photo by jparadisi

When I can’t make sense of life by other means, I find meaning within inspirational themes of literature and art. Sometimes that meaning surfaces by way of humor. It’s been said that laughter is the best medicine. Maybe, at its finest, humor becomes a place where science, humanity, and art converge.

With humor in mind, last year, Scrubs magazine posted a list of “Top fictional nurses and docs YOU want to get trapped in an elevator with.” Getting stuck in an elevator would cause me the same escape anxiety that makes a wolf chew off its paw to escape a metal trap. However, the article did make me think about my favorite fictional nurses and doctors, and what I would say to them if I ever met them.

Here’s my list of clinicians and what I would say to each:

  • Dr. Frankenstein: In light of your previous laboratory experiments, what is your position on stem cell research?
  • Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan, RN ( M*A*S*H, TV version ): Thank you for evolving from a rule- and sex-obsessed stereotype into a nurse comfortable with being compassionate, smart, and sexy. TV audiences would have been satisfied with just sexy.
  • Alex Price, RN ( An American Werewolf in London ): Exercise caution if you’re going to date your patients.
  • Phil Parma, RN ( Magnolia )You are an unsung hero, the home health nurse. You take on the pathos of the dying and their families alone. Without judgment, and through unorthodox means, you found a way to fulfill your dying patient’s last wish.  And when no one is looking, you grieve.
  • Hana, RN ( The English Patient ): Make more time for self-care and fun, instead of dating guys who are as self-destructive as you.
  • Gaylord Focker, RN ( Meet The Fockers ): Dude, if you were my coworker, we’d be BFFs.
  • Dr. Hawkeye Pierce ( M*A*S*H ): What time is happy hour?
  • Catherine Barkley, RN ( A Farewell to Arms ): Have you ever felt, like I do, that your dialogue is written in a way that sounds as if Hemingway never spoke to an actual woman?
  • Jenny Fields ( The World According to Garp ): You are the fictional nurse I’d most like to meet, despite your shortcomings. Your fierce independence is both a blessing and a curse. Despite this, you are a true healer, demonstrating profound love of humanity in all its diversity, weaknesses, and beauty. You inspired me before I knew I would be a nurse. I pray to have a heart as open and generous as yours someday. I think of you often.

Which favorite fictional doctors or nurses would top your list?