Men in the Nursing World

It has been a traditional and cultural expectation that nurses in the emergency room should be women, while men should be doctors. Nowadays however, this standard is becoming a thing of the past, as more women are welcomed into becoming physicians, and more men are training for nursing positions.

This is a positive change, as researchers are expecting a major shortage in nurses within the next few years. Taking into account that 1) the general population is increasing, 2) women now have many more career options than in the past, and 3) many nurses are baby boomers and are entering retirement age; it should come as no surprise that experts believe that there will be 1.1 million job vacancies for nurses by the year 2012. Thus, it is timely that more men have begun considering the job of nursing as one of their career choices. With greater demand than supply, salary and benefit increases are anticipated.

There is a historical reason why there is a preconceived notion of nurses as a female-dominated occupation. This association has been implanted within our minds since our childhood days. For most of us, nurses had typically been almost exclusively female during our regular visits to the pediatrician. Subsequently, many of us subconsciously and regularly refer to a doctor as a ‘he’ and a nurse as a ‘she’.

We also think of Florence Nightingale as the inventor of modern nursing. In reality however, nurses were in existence long before Nightingale, as the need was great during the bubonic plague. At that time, many of the nurses were men. Thus, Florence Nightingale did not create nursing. She did however perfect the trade by linking health rates to hygiene and by significantly changing the face of modern hospitals.

Still, this does not explain why there were and still are many more women than men in nursing. Part of the answer can be found in the times when women were not expected to receive any advanced education and thus did not have much a career outside of the home. Even in the early 1900s, women were not allowed to attend universities and thus, their careers were limited to a few job choices that could be considered respectable. These occupations included teachers, librarians, childcare nannies, secretaries, and nurses. At this time, women were saturated in these few professions in search of higher pays and more respect from their male counterparts.

Since western culture has traditionally viewed nursing as a profession tailored exclusively for women, men who want to join the nursing profession often find their masculinity and manly ego challenged — sometimes by others, but also within themselves.

What most people do not know is that nursing is a highly demanding occupation. The routines are filled with emotionally-wrenching situations, tough working hours, and multiple hazards and dangers. A nurse needs to have the smarts, strength, stability and a steady hand to handle patients in and out of the hospital.

Currently, men make up close to 8% of all nursing jobs in the United States. Once they become registered nurses, the possibilities of career advancements are virtually endless. Modern nursing administration has also opened up maternity wards and gynecology nursing jobs for men as a move to be fair to both sexes. It is also not unusual to find male nurses as midwives nowadays; although some older patients still prefer female midwives.

At times like these, male nurses have their competence and self-confidence tried and questioned. Being asked to leave the room because they are a source of discomfort can be quite demeaning or down-right disrespectful. Yet being a nurse is all about making the patient feel as comfortable as possible and usually male nurses understand their position in the eyes of the public. Thus, more often than not, they comply with the patients’ wishes. Fortunately, younger generations are a more adaptive group and welcome the rising number of male nurses as a change for the better.

Most men who are in nursing are in it for the passion. They want to be helpful and obtain more direct contact with patients as compared to a doctor’s job. It is a belief that doctors cure the sickness or diseases while nurses cure the patients themselves. Since their jobs are patient-oriented, well-meaning male nurses are generally happier with a recovering patient’s condition than society’s acceptance of their position. This is the attitude adopted by most male nurses, as a way to view the big picture of their presence and as a way to cope with their choice of going against the grain. Currently, more and more men are learning just how rewarding the nursing profession can be and their well-timed participation is very much welcomed by the medical profession.

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