John Cotter RN, CNS...on men in nursing

  1. Like many men in the nursing profession, John Cotter got his start in the military. He was planning to go to medical school, but his experience as a Navy corpsman made him change his mind and earn a second bachelor's degree in nursing instead.

    One master's degree and 26 years of nursing experience later, he is now a clinical nurse specialist in the cardiology department at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston. There, one of his responsibilities is to educate new nurses on the telemetry floor and in the coronary care unit.

    When Cotter first became a nurse, female patients would sometimes request a female nurse. But today, things are very different. Because of the trend toward discharging all but the most critically ill patients, hospital patients are much too sick to worry about anything besides getting good quality care. As a result, "the gender issue is way down on the priority list," says Cotter.

    Dorothy Upson McCabe, who directs the Department of Nursing and Career Services at the 22,000-member Massachusetts Nursing Association, agrees that times have changed for men entering the field. "Men used to be a rarity in nursing," she says. "But that's no longer the case. They may have an occasional issue with someone who still thinks a nurse has to be female and wear a cap and white starched uniform, but this appears to happen very infrequently."

    Michael McGonagle, an oncology nurse at Lahey Clinic, counsels a patient on his cancer treatment. Photo/George Disario


    Today, more than 5 percent of nursing positions in the U.S. are filled by men. Given the recent poor economy, the diminishing stigma of being a male nurse and a nursing shortage that guarantees employment for the well trained, men are now flocking to the profession.

    "In '95 and '96 no one could get a job when they graduated," says Cotter, who also has worked as an instructor at Massachusetts Bay Community College. "Now people are getting jobs before they graduate. There are job fairs, and the recruiters are literally grabbing people. Nurses of either sex can go into any field that they want. And the money is very competitive."
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  2. 3 Comments

  3. by   emmbit
    Howdy, I have just joined allnurses, and am particularly interested in a lot of the forums on men in nursing. As a male student nurse, mid 40s, a lot of what has been said in this article, and others in the forum are so true. When I started my course beginning of 2003 there were approximately 20 male students in a group of about 140 students. sadly this number has dwindeled, with dropout rates etc. When on the wards I find there are varying attitudes to me as a male nurse. There are those patients, both male and female who are qute content for me to care for them, but when it comes to getting under the clothes/gowns its a case of "i'd rather have a woman nurse, if you dont mind". To be expected I guess. Some of the nurses I have to work with apear to have differing views on the role of men in the profession. Some are not totally comfortable with us entering their domain, yet with others their arms are outstrectched, welcoming me into their fold. I guess what I am trying to say is that life is not going to be all palin sailing until attitudes toward male nurses are totally changed. I can say however, that here in New Zealand the mens lot seems to have improved in the last 10-15 years, compared to what it was like then
    Mark

    Quote from Thunderwolf
    Like many men in the nursing profession, John Cotter got his start in the military. He was planning to go to medical school, but his experience as a Navy corpsman made him change his mind and earn a second bachelor's degree in nursing instead.

    One master's degree and 26 years of nursing experience later, he is now a clinical nurse specialist in the cardiology department at Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston. There, one of his responsibilities is to educate new nurses on the telemetry floor and in the coronary care unit.

    When Cotter first became a nurse, female patients would sometimes request a female nurse. But today, things are very different. Because of the trend toward discharging all but the most critically ill patients, hospital patients are much too sick to worry about anything besides getting good quality care. As a result, "the gender issue is way down on the priority list," says Cotter.

    Dorothy Upson McCabe, who directs the Department of Nursing and Career Services at the 22,000-member Massachusetts Nursing Association, agrees that times have changed for men entering the field. "Men used to be a rarity in nursing," she says. "But that's no longer the case. They may have an occasional issue with someone who still thinks a nurse has to be female and wear a cap and white starched uniform, but this appears to happen very infrequently."

    Michael McGonagle, an oncology nurse at Lahey Clinic, counsels a patient on his cancer treatment. Photo/George Disario


    Today, more than 5 percent of nursing positions in the U.S. are filled by men. Given the recent poor economy, the diminishing stigma of being a male nurse and a nursing shortage that guarantees employment for the well trained, men are now flocking to the profession.

    "In '95 and '96 no one could get a job when they graduated," says Cotter, who also has worked as an instructor at Massachusetts Bay Community College. "Now people are getting jobs before they graduate. There are job fairs, and the recruiters are literally grabbing people. Nurses of either sex can go into any field that they want. And the money is very competitive."
  4. by   dspring
    I very rarely have the situation anymore when a female patient will ask for a female nurse. I think once you are in the room with the patient, and you show how you are professional, and caring, you have won the patients respect. On the opposite side, I have many little old ladies make comments to like there needs to be more men in nursing.
  5. by   Charlotte M. Davis
    I would like to take this opportunity to say congratulations to all the men who have chosen nursing as their career. It takes committment and dedication to helping others to chose nursing. For men, it also took courage to enter a female-dominated career. That is the same courage that women had when they enter male-dominated careers. It really is a wonderful career and I would encourage more men and women in the nursing career.

    I have worked with many excellent nurses over the many years. They have come in both genders, different cultures and ethnic groups, from different countries, and with a wide variety of religious backgrounds. Those nurses all have one thing in common - committment and dedication. They also have a lot to teach us IF we are open to learning.

    The nursing profession is strengthened by having such diversity - not weakened as some would say. It is what is in your heart that will shine through to your patient/resident/client in their time of greatest need.

    Thank you for choosing nursing. Charlotte
    Last edit by Charlotte M. Davis on Mar 20, '05

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