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Gender Bias in Healthcare Occupations

Nurses Article   (1,862 Views 21 Replies 1,012 Words)
by Melissa Mills Melissa Mills, BSN (Member) Writer Innovator Member

Melissa Mills has 20 years experience as a BSN and specializes in Health and Wellness Writing, Leadership.

9 Followers; 120 Articles; 23,165 Profile Views; 282 Posts

Have you ever wondered how patients see men and women in different healthcare roles? One study reports that patients are more likely to think that men are doctors and women are nurses. Discover some statistics about gender disparity in healthcare professions and how you might be able to help.

Gender Bias in Healthcare Occupations

Gender bias in healthcare takes many forms. Patients might think that all females with a stethoscope around their necks are nurses and that men in scrubs must be doctors. A recent study reports that younger patients are more likely to identify female physicians and male nurses correctly. However, overall, the study found that most patients associate the nursing profession to female healthcare workers.

If you're wondering what gender bias is and ways you can help educate others, we've got you covered. Here is some essential information you need to understand gender bias in healthcare.

Gender Bias in Healthcare

Gender bias can be prejudice or preference toward one gender over another. It might be a conscious decision or can be an unconscious belief you have about someone based on their sex. In healthcare, gender bias is to blame for unreasonable comments like Joy Behar’s 2015 statement about nurses and Miss Colorado, Kelley Johnson wearing a “doctor’s stethoscope,” and the general belief that all nurses are women.

Gender bias in the workplace is also responsible for wage disparities between men and women in all industries and even issues of sexual discrimination in the workplace. While women have made huge strides, there were still only 24 female CEOs leading Fortune 500 companies across the nation in 2018. However, more recognition is being given to women in leadership positions. In December 2018, Becker’s Hospital Review recognized 143 female leaders of hospitals and health systems. However, not many were nurses.

Men in Nursing

The number of men in nursing has been on a steady incline for many years. According to Montana State University, the number of male nurses continues to increase in the total amount. However, the representation of full-time male nurses has remained steady at about 11 percent of the total number of nurses between 2011 and 2016. The average age of male RN’s is about two years younger than female RNs, which is a good thing when you look at the overall trajectory of men in the profession.

The interesting thing about men in nursing is that while they don’t make up the highest proportion of nurses, they do tend to earn higher wages compared to women. In fact, on average, they make about $2 more per hour than women in similar positions. You might be thinking that $2 isn’t much, but when you calculate that out over a year at 40-hours a week, the difference is a bit over $4000 annually.

Women in Medicine

If we’re going to look at men in nursing, it’s only fair to take a peek at the number of women doctors, too. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, there are 1,005,295 physicians in the United States as of March 2019. A total of 359,409 (36%)  identified as female and 644,683 (64%) are male, while 1203 were unspecified. These numbers make medicine a male-dominated profession.  

A 2018 Medscape report about Physician Compensation reported that women physicians who worked as plastic surgeons, gastroenterologists, and radiologists are among the highest earners for female doctors. Male doctors in primary care reported an average salary of $293,000 per year or about $140 an hour. Women in primary care practices made an average of $203,000 each year or about $97 an hour based on a 40-hour week. That’s a difference of $43 for every hour worked.

Ways to Help

When you think of gender bias in healthcare, you might not even notice it at first because the make-up of your unit is what it is, right? However, when you start to research the numbers and look at the salary differences for women in just about any healthcare role, you might begin thinking that there is an issue. The study reported at the beginning of this article also brings up the question of how patients might respond to a female doctor or a male nurse during care. These are a few of the problems we need to consider and help resolve.

Here are a few simple things you can do to help:

Support the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN)

The American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) is on a mission to “shape the practice, education, research, and leadership for men in nursing and advance men’s health.” Two of their objectives that all of us can help with include encouraging men of all ages to become nurses, and then supporting them in the profession. Consider mentoring young men in nursing or even talking at a local high school career day about the importance of expanding the number of men in nursing.

Support Women in STEM

There has been a big push to support more women to enter into professions in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This covers a broad range of occupations but certainly covers many healthcare professions that young women should consider. Much like supporting men in nursing, if you have a love of STEM, consider becoming a volunteer with young women making decisions about their future and helping them find jobs in science and healthcare.

Talk About the Disparities

Have you ever noticed that when you make a conscious effort to talk about issues that plague the workplace, they tend to lose their strength? So, if you’re at the bedside when a patient calls a female doctor a nurse, politely correct them. And, when you hear someone make an insensitive comment about men in nursing, tell them about the awesome male nurses you work with and how you would love to have more men work alongside you. It’s that simple!

Do you have other ideas for diminishing the existence of gender bias in healthcare? If so, we would love to hear them. Drop a comment below.

Melissa is a professor, medical writer, and business owner. She has been a nurse for over 20 years and enjoys combining her nursing knowledge and passion for the written word. She is available for writing, editing, and coaching services. You can see more of her work at www.melissamills.net.

9 Followers; 120 Articles; 23,165 Profile Views; 282 Posts

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TriciaJ has 38 years experience as a RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

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Is this really still a thing?  There was a time when most doctors were male and most nurses were female, so it was a pretty safe assumption.  When situations change, attitudes generally change with them, but lag behind for a bit.

I think this is a fire that should be allowed to die out in the course of time.  We need to quit throwing gas on it.

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morelostthanfound has 27 years experience as a BSN and specializes in CVOR, General/Trauma Surgery.

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I have been an RN for almost 28 years and my father was a nurse before me.  It has been this way a very long time and though I would love to see this common stereotype change, I have just learned to let it go in one ear and out the other.  In my opinion, an even greater bias that exist today in healthcare occupations, is age discrimination!  Although administrators and senior management would vehemently deny it, fresh faced, inexperienced, and malleable nurses are much favored in the hiring process over seasoned nurses who have higher salary demands and don't quite project that desired youthful, vibrant image that is important for PR.  These practices are unfair, exploitive, and illegal but yet continue in an endemic fashion!

Edited by morelostthanfound

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CastiMcNasti specializes in Exercise and Wellness.

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Not trolling and not trying to offend anyone, but my question is why is it so important to push males into nursing and females into STEM? Yes, there are a larger percentage of females in nursing and a larger percentage of males in STEM field, but is that a bad thing? I think if a female decides on their own to pursue a STEM career, then they should be supported. But I don’t understand this need to push people into fields they may not want to pursue. I am in nursing school because I want to be a nurse. I believe this notion that there needs to be equal representation of gender, race, age, etc. in all fields is irrational. I don’t know. Just my two cents.

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TriciaJ has 38 years experience as a RN and specializes in Psych, Corrections, Med-Surg, Ambulatory.

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7 hours ago, CastiMcNasti said:

Not trolling and not trying to offend anyone, but my question is why is it so important to push males into nursing and females into STEM? Yes, there are a larger percentage of females in nursing and a larger percentage of males in STEM field, but is that a bad thing? I think if a female decides on their own to pursue a STEM career, then they should be supported. But I don’t understand this need to push people into fields they may not want to pursue. I am in nursing school because I want to be a nurse. I believe this notion that there needs to be equal representation of gender, race, age, etc. in all fields is irrational. I don’t know. Just my two cents.

I agree.  How is pushing people in much different from keeping them out?  Can't we just do what we want?

 

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LibraSunCNM has 10 years experience as a MSN and specializes in OB.

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12 hours ago, TriciaJ said:

I agree.  How is pushing people in much different from keeping them out?  Can't we just do what we want?

 

I think the concern is that studies show middle and high school girls are not *encouraged* to pursue interests in STEM at the same rate boys are, and so the reason they represent fewer people in STEM careers is not by choice, but rather because they were naturally encouraged to pursue other paths.  Same idea with men in nursing.  They're just trying to level the playing field by equal exposure, not push people into anything they don't want to do.

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2 hours ago, LibraSunCNM said:

I think the concern is that studies show middle and high school girls are not *encouraged* to pursue interests in STEM at the same rate boys are, and so the reason they represent fewer people in STEM careers is not by choice, but rather because they were naturally encouraged to pursue other paths.  Same idea with men in nursing.  They're just trying to level the playing field by equal exposure, not push people into anything they don't want to do.

THIS hard.  

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CastiMcNasti specializes in Exercise and Wellness.

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3 hours ago, LibraSunCNM said:

I think the concern is that studies show middle and high school girls are not *encouraged* to pursue interests in STEM at the same rate boys are, and so the reason they represent fewer people in STEM careers is not by choice, but rather because they were naturally encouraged to pursue other paths.  Same idea with men in nursing.  They're just trying to level the playing field by equal exposure, not push people into anything they don't want to do.

What do you mean by “level the playing field”? I feel there is already equal opportunity for a female to enter STEM or a male to enter nursing. I personally feel it’s more about overcoming societal norms and stereotypes. For instance, nurses being portrayed as female in media or scientists/engineers being portrayed as male. However, I feel the latter is not as prevalent now. I definitely see many more women cast as scientists, engineers, doctors, etc. now. It also starts at a young age. Having young girls play with what are considered feminine toys and boys playing with what are considered masculine toys. Blue for boys. Pink for girls. So, for me, it’s about parents exposing and teaching their children about the many different opportunities available, regardless of gender.

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LibraSunCNM has 10 years experience as a MSN and specializes in OB.

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49 minutes ago, CastiMcNasti said:

What do you mean by “level the playing field”? I feel there is already equal opportunity for a female to enter STEM or a male to enter nursing. I personally feel it’s more about overcoming societal norms and stereotypes. For instance, nurses being portrayed as female in media or scientists/engineers being portrayed as male. However, I feel the latter is not as prevalent now. I definitely see many more women cast as scientists, engineers, doctors, etc. now. It also starts at a young age. Having young girls play with what are considered feminine toys and boys playing with what are considered masculine toys. Blue for boys. Pink for girls. So, for me, it’s about parents exposing and teaching their children about the many different opportunities available, regardless of gender.

That's basically what I was talking about---that while there might technically be equal opportunities for both sexes, the societal norms/pressures/stereotypes get in the way.  By encouraging girls to go into STEM, those stereotypes get pushed back a little.

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5 hours ago, LibraSunCNM said:

That's basically what I was talking about---that while there might technically be equal opportunities for both sexes, the societal norms/pressures/stereotypes get in the way.  By encouraging girls to go into STEM, those stereotypes get pushed back a little.

But boys are not correspondingly being encouraged to go into nursing.   Why is one stereotype being pushed back on but not the other? 

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LibraSunCNM has 10 years experience as a MSN and specializes in OB.

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5 minutes ago, Biker53 said:

But boys are not correspondingly being encouraged to go into nursing.   Why is one stereotype being pushed back on but not the other? 

Good question.  Probably a variety of factors.  Obviously it should go both ways, I would love to see more men in nursing.

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On 6/21/2019 at 11:40 AM, Melissa Mills said:
 

I am so sick of the liberal push towards gender equality. I'm old fashioned. I want a man to take care of me, so that means earn a higher pay. I also have no preference if I have a male vs female doctor. I feel like this "women should be like men and men should be like women" thing is so over the top! I mean who cares? Women and men are biologically and psychologically different. I  think we should embrace these differences instead of trying to make everyone the same. So what if more women want to be nurses instead of STEM occupations. So what if more men prefer to be doctors rather than nurses. Give it a rest already!

Edited by K8e

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