The Growing Number of Men in Nursing

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    In the minds of many, nursing is women's work. Not only is this untrue, but this misconception wasn't always around. Today, we present a brief history lesson of men in nursing and examine trends which suggest that more men are entering the field in the 21st Century than have been for a very long time.

    The Growing Number of Men in Nursing

    Picture the following scenario. You're waiting in a clinic room., and you've just been told the nurse will be in to see you shortly. Who walks in to take your vitals and ask you questions? A man? Frankly, the chances are high that the answer is no. However, many of those in the field would like to see that change.

    A quick history lesson - Back in "the day," the role of the nurse didn't actually fall to the "fairer sex." In fact, according to the American Assembly of Men in Nursing, nursing duties were relegated mainly to military or religious settings - two sectors overwhelmingly male dominated.

    The shift from male to female nurses didn't take root here in our nation until the Civil War. The nature of combat became more industrial and multifaceted, and women were needed to step into nursing roles.

    This trend soon became the status quo in the early 1900's when American nursing schools, along with the Army and Navy Nurse Corps, were admitting only women. In fact, men were not allowed to serve in nursing positions in the latter organizations until after the Korean War. But by this time, it was a little late to shake off the gender binary so firmly in place.

    Today, the undeniable majority of nurses in all levels of education, are women. In 2008, there were over 3 million nurses in the United States, but only a little over 6 percent of these were men. Men still only comprise about 13 percent of nursing school enrollees.

    Gender stereotypes have been cited; women have been seen traditionally as caregivers and nurturers But could those social norms be changing?

    If we're looking at the stats, the answer could be yes. As of 2011, the US Census Bureau found about 9.6 percent of all registered nurses in the U.S. were male. Seems like a low number? Believe it or not, that is TRIPLE the amount of men who were in the field just three decades before - only 2.7 percent in 1970.

    Perhaps, men are becoming nurses for the very same reasons women are; nursing is dynamic, highly skilled work, and involves more direct engagement with patients than many other medical professions. A doctor's care is more focused on the pathology and specific treatment of a patient, but, from clinics to hospitals, nurses indisputably spend the most time with patients and their families.

    Nurses also find a great deal of career success and stability. Year over year, publications like US News find nursing to be in the upper echelon of careers when it comes to job availability, job growth, and income. There's nothing particularly gendered about wanting a solid, reliable career.

    Companies like Johnson and Johnson are even working to bolster the visibility of men in the field by promoting scholarships.

    As time goes on, more men (and women) are shuffling off gender stereotypes to pursue their professional passions. Stay tuned to see how this trend affects who greets you in the waiting room.
    Last edit by Joe V on Apr 17, '14
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    18 Comments

  3. by   nursephillyphil
    I just graduated last May, my nursing class was 60 people, only 3 of which were male including myself. I kind of like the low numbers, makes us more distinguished in a way.
  4. by   BrandonLPN
    It must vary by region. Where I live, the percentage of male nurses has got to be at least 25%. And 1/3 of my class was male.
  5. by   The_Learner
    I just had my first Nursing school orientation meeting last week, out of the 50 Nursing students 5 of us were males. On top of that I’m a 6’3 225 lb Black male that usually goes bald (it’s SO much easier to deal with!!). So yeah, I stick out like a sore thumb compared to my female counterparts. However, I would be the “minority” of this field so it didn’t bother me one bit; I thought it was awesome! In my very humble opinion, all that matters is that each of us (students) needs to take this very seriously and put forth our best effort in becoming the best nurse we could possibly be. Sex/gender doesn’t matter; if you are good at what you do i.e. bettering lives of your patients, then by all means: more power to ya!
  6. by   shodobe
    Actually his article didn't really say anymore than what was around thirty years ago.
  7. by   kbrn2002
    My facility has 24 nurses on staff, 4 of them are male. Of those 4 males, 2 are in management and do not perform direct care. We have gone through periods over the time I have been there where there were 0 male nurses. At one point there was 1 male nurse...he was the DON. While it is nice to see an increase in males entering the profession, I have to say that it does bother me that the percentage of males hired right into management or being promoted into management very quickly seems quite high.
    I work in LTC by the way, and my experience in this is limited to my facility so I don't want to appear like I am making a blanket statement that men get preferential treatment when management positions become available regardless of other qualifications.
  8. by   calivianya
    On some shifts, at least half of my coworkers are men. I work ICU - I couldn't say the same thing when I was a rehab CNA. Some areas of nursing attract more men than others.
  9. by   ChristineN
    I think a lot has to do with geographic location as some parts of the country seem to be more nurse friendly and thus more likely men will consider it as a career option. My nursing school was 20% men, and many of the floors I did clinicals on in nursing school were easily 25% male or more. However now I work in a different city and my hospital seems to have very few male nurses
  10. by   HappyMurse
    I graduate in a few weeks, and in the past 2 years of clinicals, I have encountered very few male nurses in the hospitals in my area (Baton Rouge, Louisiana region)...until this last semester! I finally found out where most of the guys are hiding. It seems like more than half the nurses in ICU and critical care positions are men. I guess it's the excitement of the critical care areas, which I can't really blame them...heck, that's where I intend to be as well. I think out of my graduating class, we make up about 10 guys out of 60 or so graduates.
  11. by   emtb2rn
    There are times in my er where one section will have 4 nurses, a tech, a doc & a pa. All guys.

    Let's Go Rangers!!!!
  12. by   ShelbyaStar
    I'm really glad that gender stereotypes are loosening in general. I do wonder what impact this trend will have on nursing. Someone else mentioned men receiving preferential treatment for management, an issue that happens in most fields. I have heard many people remark they prefer having male coworkers because they can lift more and a perception that they stir up less drama, so I wonder if it will get to the point where males have a better chance of getting hired, period.

    On the other hand, having more males in the field may raise the respectful treatment of nurses in general. Maybe that will translate into better pay, better benefits, working conditions, etc. It'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.
  13. by   FutureRPN
    Quote from ShelbyaStar
    I'm really glad that gender stereotypes are loosening in general. I do wonder what impact this trend will have on nursing. Someone else mentioned men receiving preferential treatment for management, an issue that happens in most fields. I have heard many people remark they prefer having male coworkers because they can lift more and a perception that they stir up less drama, so I wonder if it will get to the point where males have a better chance of getting hired, period.

    On the other hand, having more males in the field may raise the respectful treatment of nurses in general. Maybe that will translate into better pay, better benefits, working conditions, etc. It'll be interesting to see how it all unfolds.

    I am am all for gender equality, and my question is- why should men be given preferential treatment if we are all doing the same job. I find this nonsense that not only are men receiving more wages in other jobs, but they are also mostly in management positions. No offense, but most men in nursing want gender equality in the workforce, but what about women? We aren't being treated equally.

    You part on 'having more males in the field may raise the respectful treatment of nurses in general' is bogus. Nursing is a respectful career regardless there are less or male nurses in general. Honestly, I find it offensive in general that females are looked down upon even though nursing is more female dominated. Don't get me wrong, like I said, I'm all for gender equality.
  14. by   amygarside
    This is nothing new to me.

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