Male RN's vs. Female RN's in ICU setting- difference?

  1. Hello all,

    In the ICU I have the privledge to work in, there have been some questions raised about new RN's coming into the fold. What has been the observation is this- the male RN's are being given more challenging pts than the female RN's.
    Now, if some of you are not familiar with ICU induction, the "new" recruits usually take more stable pts. This can go on for months- even up to a year.
    It is common for new members in the ICU to have to ask for more challenging pts- pts with inotropes, being orientated to the balloon pump, ventriculotstomies, etc.
    So the observation is, the male new recruits are often given these more challenging pts faster. I do not have any data to support this observation, and being new myself to the ICU, I am starting to see what the fuss is about.
    Is it true, in your facility, male RN's are often fast-tracked?
    WHen I worked on the floor, it was NOT TRUE. However, there are defintely more male RN's in the ICU.
    Do you think gender roles still dictate our descisions?

    Love to hear from others on this.
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  2. 13 Comments

  3. by   SICU Queen
    At my hospital this is definitely NOT the case. It depends strictly on ability. Maybe it's just that the men in your unit are more open to the "challenge" of a sicker patient and therefore get to go for it? Or they just open their mouths sooner and say "I want the sickest one here"? Men as a whole (IMO) tend to be more aggressive. Perhaps this is reflected in their orientation and that's what you're seeing.

    Also, in my hospital, there are NOT more male RN's in ICU. So maybe that's why I don't see what you're seeing. The men that we do have, however, are very aggressive in their patient care. I'm glad to work with them, they're excellent nurses.
  4. by   mattsmom81
    Wow, this is a touchy subject, JMP, can't wait for the replies...LOL!

    I am female and enjoy my guy and gal coworkers equally....see good and bad nurses in both sexes....... I have observed a tendency for many (not all) managers to still subscribe to a subtle gender discrimination...the guys seem to get rewarded/promoted FASTER than the gal of same or better competency and education.

    We need a study done on this if it's possible... I'm sure our anecdotes will irritate some.... I do understand anecdote is not the singular of data but I have been concerned by my observations over the years....would LOVE to see a broad based study done taking into account all measurable qualifications with sex being the variable.....even if it proves me wrong!!

    It bothers me when the gal is just as ambitious and sharp (from my viewpoint as charge) but the guy is chosen ie for critical care internships, IABP courses, etc. The gal eventually will get there if she's tenacious but must wait til the guys jump past her, IME. I have recommended female nurses to my bosses for promotions only to see them choose a less qualified male nurse (from my perspective as a charge nurse)....and I am left to wonder why.

    Bigotry of all kinds will always be alive and well out there, unfortunately, and sexism is only one of many barriers to a fair workplace. But then again life ain't fair so.....there we are.

    My lil sis works in a government agency and sees similar things as in nursing....she applied for a promotion and it was given to a young man with half her experience and credentials..one who she had trained. It's hard to prove these things and a EEO complaint looks bad on her record. She decided to stay above it all and I admire her for that.

    Success is the best revenge; we learn and we move forward.
  5. by   SKM-NURSIEPOOH
    Good morning JMP & others:

    Yes, there is a correlation between nurses that are male & moving up the track faster than nurses that are female.

    Most nurses that are males tend to gravitate towards the speciality units, Critical Care, & go into management positions as well. I've noticed that they're mainly concentrated in the OR (especially as CRNAs), PICU, CICU, SICU, NICU, ED, Telemetry, Orthopedic units, & the Vent units. Many have seek-out other avenues of nursing which are non-contact in nature such as the insurance & medical supply companies, working as legal consultants, & are in the speciality field of forensic nursing. I see them on the Med/Surg floors, but not in the same numbers. I hardly see them in L&D & Postpartum units; not that they aren't there...I just never seen them.

    Many have turned to the academia arena where they have obtained Masters & Doctorate level degrees & are holding Assoicate Professor, Professor, Assistant Departmental Chair, Departmental Chair, Assistant Dean, & Dean's positions...and they are promoted at a much faster pace than the nurses whom are females.

    Management tend to want to work with nurses whom are males because they're perceived to be more assertive, decisive, & less emotional. Male phyisicans tend to respect their knowledge & talents more readily as well; it's kind like that good ole boy thing. Don't get me wrong, I'm not at all against our nurses whom are male, I think they're a great asset to us all; and because they're nurses whom are going up the ranks faster, perhaps they will be able to rally for more fair working conditions for us all.
    Last edit by SKM-NURSIEPOOH on Mar 26, '02
  6. by   CindyCCRN
    Hi, everyone! Yup, I agree this is a rather touchy subject...
    But, after 25 years + of ICU Nursing, I choose to comment. Over 10 years ago, I worked with very few male nurses. I did feel that most of them functioned on a relatively low-level compared to the many top notch female critical-care nurses I witnessed. And yes, being a strong minority, they did seem to be offered advantages and promotions that were unavailable to much more competent and deserving female nurses.
    More recently, there has been a great influx of male staff RN's into our ICU. At this writting, 30+% of our full time RN staff is male and many more daily agency staff are also men. My perspective has changed greatly. They are all highly knowledgeable, very competent, motivated, compassionate, caring, and energetic team players. Our male nurses are a real asset to the unit and profession. For the last 2 years, my partner (2 nurses who work the exact same schedule) is one of the dearest people and best nurses I've ever worked with - yes - a male RN...
    ...I think our nursing profession might not be in such a sad state of affairs, if we had many more male RN's...

    ....It is easy to get opinions from people who tell us what we want to hear. But the only really helpful advice is hearing the truth, even when painful.....
    Last edit by CindyCCRN on Mar 26, '02
  7. by   Stargazer
    JMP, this was definitely not the case in my ICU. We had a lot of men in our unit, and they were not given deferential scheduling, pt. assignments, or responsibilities. Those things were merit-based and were awarded according to individual strengths.

    You say there is no data to support your feeling. Why not collect some, to prove your point to your manager?
  8. by   huggietoes
    I find it to be true. I had a male friend while in nursing school who was consistently behind in every aspect to his female counterparts. Did not take vitals on time, difficulty doing nursing notes, disastorous care plans, could not effectively manage time for care of more than one patient and the list goes on. However, could pull the proverbial wool over the instructors eyes, BS his way out of any situation and convince the female students to help him then profess that he had completed all care himself. He totally lied recently at a job interview and is now going to begin work in an ICU that handles the most critical patients in the state! I am concerned, not just about the patients but his unrealistic expectations. The staff is not, (I hope) going to be as easily fooled as his nursing class into doing his work for him. And he even admitted that the only reason he chose critical care was the idea of only taking care of one patient. This facility does not usually hire new grads in the ICU but the interviewer was so mesmerized by him and his tall tales of grandeur that she hired him on the spot! All this and he is not even that great looking, what is his secret, or is it just testosterone?
  9. by   JMP
    Stargazer

    I too am new to ICU, so I am just starting to fiqure out the way things work. I guess I never realized how different "ICU world" really is. I have been there since November and find I am just starting to see some things for the first time........like the male and female RN thing.

    I have people who orientated after me, who are male, who have been given more challenging pts, but at the same time there are other variables, like their previous experience and education.

    I will continue to watch the trend. I do, however, in causal observation see that the male RN's are treated somewhat differently overall. It must have something to do with males in a female dominated workplace.

    I am not saying it is good or bad.......just different. My preceptor in the ICU was a male, and he was a great teacher. A female RN who started at the same time as my preceptor was actually the one who said outloud in the break room that males are given more green lights to go ahead than the females.

    I think it would be an interesting research topic.
  10. by   live4today
    hi jmp,

    in my years as a nurse, the male nurses that i have worked with during the times i worked in an icu setting, we're treated very well! no difference was ever shown them that i was aware of. i think it is great that men are pursuing careers in nursing! the more the merrier because maybe the more men we have in this field, maybe the status and benefits of nurses will greatly improve in time!
  11. by   Stargazer
    I think it would be an interesting research topic.
    I agree.

    Judging by the various responses here, not to mention my own experience, it's my general feeling that this is a management issue. This certainly may be occurring in individual units or even entire hospitals; but it's charge nurses/managers/administrators who are creating the environment that preferential treatment for certain groups is okay or even expected. That's why I suggested you collect data from your own unit to prove or disprove this point.

    I do think it's a truism that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. If male nurses are indeed getting more challenging patients, I agree with whoever said that it may be due to the fact that males may be more comfortable speaking up and asking for those assignments.

    I remember about 5 months after I finished my ICU residency, there was an extremely unstable, complex patient who desperately needed a primary nurse, but none of the more senior nurses really wanted to take him. It was the policy in our unit that you had to be out of residency for a full year before you could be a primary nurse. Well, I fought to be this guy's primary, and with the support of the unit's CNS's, I was allowed to do so. 2 weeks later, my charge nurse came and asked me to be primary on another patient! I had to really speak up to get that initial opportunity, but I WAS allowed to prove myself.

    My point is, that if such a male/female gap exists, I think that women can bridge that gap by consciously being more assertive about requesting/demanding care experiences they need or want. Maybe it isn't fair that you have to go the extra mile when the men *seem* to get things handed to them, but what better way to show 'em your leadership qualities?
  12. by   Jenny P
    I work in a CV-ICU that is close to 1/3 male. After 29 years in critical care, my experience has been that the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. The person who asks for the tougher assignments AND PERFORMS WELL, gets the sickest patients. Males often seem to be more agressive in asking, but any female who asks will also get the same type of patients.
    I do see the doctors relate differently to the males, but they relate differently to the females they have known for a long time also. Does it bother me? Not in the least, it's just a fact of life that occurs in any area of society.
  13. by   NeuroNP
    Wow. This is all opposite of my experience. I used to work as a Tech (CNA) in a busy Level I ER. I was CONSTANTLY getting dumped on by management. I didn't understand why I was getting in trouble for little things that I saw others doing and nothing was said to them. Most troubling was the constant complaint from the managment that I was "unapproachable" and "intimidating." Now, most of the (female) RN's I asked about this laughed at the idea of me being intimidating and unapproachable (I started to take a little offense, "you don't think I'm a LITTLE intimidating?" as they are rolling on the floor at the idea! )

    They all agreed that I was one of the hardest workers and most eager to learn (maybe that's that male aggressiveness!) and at the same time, had good relational skills and was approachable and likeable. One of them finally suggested that maybe our MANAGER (a female) was intimidated by me. Possibly because of my gender, possibly because I worked my butt off and studied and read so that I knew as much as most new grad nurses (now, before this starts a war, I'm not saying that I was equivilant to an RN when I was a tech, just that I KNEW almost as much because I REALLY worked at it.)

    In fact, when I asked the manager WHY anyone would be intimidated by me, she admitted that it wasn't my behavior, but my height (6'1") and my gender.

    So, I like to think that I can appreciate what women in other lines of work go through being "picked on" because of their gender.

    Bryan
  14. by   SmilingBluEyes
    Please remember, this thead is 3 years old. The issues brought up may or may not be current. And the OP is likely LONG gone. Have a great day!

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