Article: Gene Tranbarger, on Men in Nursing

Nurses Men


Gene Tranbarger, on men in nursing


Russell Eugene Tranbarger, Ed.D., RN, received his nursing diploma from the Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago in 1959. He went on to obtain a BSN from DePaul University and an MSN from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. In 1991, he received his Ed.D. from North Carolina State University in health occupation education public policy. He is president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing and, in 2002, became a Mary Lewis Wyche fellow to the North Carolina Nurses Association. He was recently elected to the American Academy of Nursing.

By Bree LeMaire MS, RN

September 12, 2003

How did you get into nursing? Nursing academics?

I went into nursing to become a doctor. I had a scholarship to medical school, but couldn't afford the expenses. Someone from my hometown told me that if I became a nurse anesthetist, I'd make more than enough for medical school. Maybe six months after beginning, I realized nursing was where I belonged. I was one of the few men who never became a nurse anesthetist. The Alexian Brothers Hospital was a nursing school that was entirely for male nurses. There were six to 12 such schools then. Now, they're all closed.

Later, working as a nurse in North Carolina, I took the hospital that was known in the state as having the worst nursing care in the country and turned it into the best. Getting into academics, I want to say that HMOs drove me into education. After receiving my doctorate, East Carolina University made me an offer I couldn't refuse and I've been there since. Last May, I retired for the third time following family illnesses. I'm now looking into doing something entirely different.

As president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, what challenges do men in nursing face?

The challenge is the same one we've faced for many years. We have to overcome the concept that it's a woman's job. Look in our nursing journals and we see an awful lot of women. Men who want to become nurses will delay application to nursing schools for these reasons.

The American Assembly for Men in Nursing has been around for a little less than 30 years, so we've been here a long time. We have a Web site that tells the history of men in nursing. Our goals are always the same: to increase the visibility of men in nursing, to support men who want to become nurses and to advocate for men's health issues. Our Web site [] is a rich resource for men's health.

Men in nursing are one of nursing's best-kept secrets.

What is your involvement with the North Carolina Nurse Practice Act?

First, let me tell you a bit about the history of the Nurse Practice Act. North Carolina had the first Nurse Practice Act in the country. It was adopted in 1903, so we're just celebrating our 100th anniversary.

We had our own Florence Nightingale in the name of Mary Lewis Wyche. She was born into a prominent family in the 1800s and had finished one year of college, when she got a letter from her father telling her to come home and take care of her brothers. So she went home to Chapel Hill. Then, as her brothers graduated from college and left home, her father said she was no longer needed. She decided to become a nurse, which she did.

At one point, she went to a nurses' meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., which was a precursor to today's ANA. They said the only way to regulate nursing was through a state practice act. She went back to North Carolina, gathered other nurses together and founded the Raleigh Nurses Association. Wyche went on to found three schools of nursing and introduce the first Nurse Practice Act. She was elected president for the first five years and then went on to become secretary of the organization.

This year, the ANA put her into the Nursing Hall of Fame. I wrote the nomination and was there to accept the award in her name.

I was the first and only man elected to the North Carolina Nurses Association and from the beginning knew we had to reorganize our Nurse Practice Act board. The first thing I did was to get all the nursing organizations behind us and then we rewrote the whole act. What we did still is in existence.

Anything you'd like to add?

Nursing has a rich history, but we need to know about male nurses and what they've done. Two of the men on the Vietnam Wall are male nurses, yet we don't hear of them. Three thousand men were drafted into the Army in 1965 as nurses, yet they tell you they never needed to draft nurses because a ready supply of women volunteered. That's just not the case. There were many male nurses working at the World Trade Center site, and it was good to see some interviewed by the news media. That provided a positive visibility for men in nursing.

Nursing offers a great deal of unique opportunities for men, and I see the cultural barriers coming down. We need to "degender" nursing and recruit every qualified applicant. I want someone good taking care of me when I can't take care of myself. God knows we need a lot more nurses.

By using the site, you agree with our Policies. X