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."
Mar 20, '05
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