male nurse sexism? L&D in the ICU

Nurses General Nursing


  • Specializes in CCU, Critical Care Flexi Pool.

I have been working as an RN in critical care for two years, before this I was a Paramedic with 5 years experience delivering babies in the back of ambulances...

This information is just to get you up to speed on what happened to me...

I was returning to work a shift with patients which I had previous experience's with. One of these patients was a preganant ICU patient with pulm. and CV compromise.

Upon my arrival the PM charge nurse had decided that my assignments needed to be changed. The reason and I quote was " Male nurses have no right to be in a laboring womens room!" and out of consideration for her needs I would not have the same assignment.


First off, I had built a rapport with the patient the previous day. The patient had never requested to have female staff only. Since this was a preterm ICU patient, Labor and Delivery was present as well as the ICU RN who would facilitate managment of the critical care needs.

I am a professional. This is a career for me. It may be very true that women would PREFER a female in the room. However, why can the male OBGYN MD be present and this not cause a problem? yet a male nurse brings alarm...


PLEASE HERE ME OUT, male nurses have the same RN liceanse as any Female RN. I have had the same mother baby infant classes ,infact with my Paramedic experience I have personally delivered four children which should allow me more "points/props" towards working with this patient.

Let me be clear L&D is not my specialty nor do I want to be present during the invasive parts of a GYN exam. However, I am just as capable to perform care as any female nurse working in any specialty in the hospital. Can I relate to delivering a child, nope only if you consider a kidney stone similar to pregnancy, But i most certainly can sympathize and provided resonable accomadations for privacy and emotional support.

Is it inappropriate to feel wronged that some one would insult my professional integrity. Female Nurse's, would you not be hurt if told that you can't handle taking care of a prostate cancer patient because he was a man with an organ unfamiliar to your own body?

I made an attempt to inform this charge nurse that this was unacceptable. Ultimitely, I ended up taking this issue up with the RN manager. Who by the way is a male for 30+ years and completely agrees that this is unacceptable behavior.

How would you have handled this. Do you think Male nurses can't manage the ICU side of a laboring patient? Is there a diffrence in male doctors and male nurses, and if so why?

Thanks for your thoughts in advance and I look forward to hearing from you.


280 Posts

Specializes in LTC.

I agree that as long as the patient did not request to have no male caregivers there is no reason that you could not provide care. Female nurses who have not given birth don't have personal knowledge of what labor/delivery is like either, but that doesn't mean that they cannot have compassion and understanding during the process. When I was in labor I had only female nurses and a female doctor, but if I would have gotten a male nurse, I may have thought it unusual since you don't see many male nurses in L&D, but I wouldn't have had a problem with him providing care as long as he was professional.

Yes, there are people who see childbirth as a uniquely feminine expereince and want to be surrounded by only women during labor and delivery. But that is a decision for the patient to make, not the charge nurse. You did the right thing by bringing the issue to the attention of the nurse mananger.


640 Posts

Specializes in Perinatal, Education.

I just returned from the annual convention for the Association of Obstetrical, Women's Health, and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN). There were a few men there. Not many, but they were definitely there. In fact, two of the presenters I went to were male nurse midwives. Both were from the military. One had been an L&D nurse for several years before becoming a midwife. I am an L&D nurse and the patient you are describing does not sound like a laboring patient. I have worked high risk and have spent shifts in the ICU monitoring a patient and feeling like a fish out of water!

Your boss handled the situation poorly. She had faulty reasoning and didn't appear to be putting the patient's needs first although she probably felt she was. As the ICU nurse, you are handling much different care for the patient--laboring or not. I would think the patient would prefer to be with a nurse who she knew has cared for her competently and kindly--no matter what gender they happened to be. I'm sorry you were treated this way.

leslie :-D

11,191 Posts

your boss was wrong and it sounds discriminatory.

i will reiterate what the others have been saying:

that unless the pt requested a female nurse or pt had refused male nurse, then you sound extremely qualified in providing care.

i'm sorry you experienced this.


TiffyRN, BSN, PhD

2,315 Posts

Specializes in Nurse Scientist-Research.

There are several nurses on this site that are male and work in L&D as their regular job. My husband is an RN that works in NICU. He has charge nurses that don't want him assigned to infants that have orders to breastfeed in case their mothers come in and want to BF. Other charge nurses don't care, and none of the mothers have ever expressed discomfort.

Your charge nurse needs to catch up with the times. I'm so glad you took up the issue with your manager. It doesn't sound like a really common issue that will come up frequently, but it does arise off and on. The NICU I work for we have mom's on and off that were in adult ICU either before or after birth (sometimes both).


7 Posts

Specializes in CCU, Critical Care Flexi Pool.

Thanks for the great responses.

I told this story to my wife who is also a nurse and she said the same as the posters.... but it's very reassuring that others have a similar belief.

We all choose the profession to care for others. ICU is a diffrent world and I was thrilled to know L&D folks were around!!!


40 Posts


I completely agree with you. I'd be very offended. I'm sorry this happened to you.

I really curious about the nurse posted, "Ultimitely, I ended up taking this issue up with the RN manager. Who by the way is a male for 30+ years and completely agrees that this is unacceptable behavior." Was he once a female?

(Sorry, couldn't resist!)


337 Posts

I am behind you 100%. :mnnnrsngrk:

Elvish, BSN, DNP, RN, NP

4 Articles; 5,259 Posts

Specializes in Community, OB, Nursery.

Agree with the other posters - your body parts and/or chromosomal makeup should not have made a lick of difference to the charge nurse. I'm sorry this happened to you. It shouldn't have.


446 Posts

Specializes in ER OR LTC Code Blue Trauma Dog.

"Male Nurses" are not the only one's being singled out in this situation.

I am also a male and I have been assigned pt. loads consisting of some "female" pt's. in the past. Sometimes, my pt's loads would be switched without explanation. So basically, my assignment was often much different than my female counterparts. ...Why?

When I questioned this with the charge nurse, It was basically expained this really comes down to what the "customer" wants and not necessarily what we want... This may occur regardless of any particular multidisciplinary function we are performing at the time. I am probably much like yourself in terms of carrying out my duties in a professional manner regardless of patient gender. I admit, it probably has more to do with the fact that we are simply both males but the patient does have the right to privacy.

Our patients are human beings and sometimes we simply must be sensitive to the privacy and wishes of the patients we are taking care of at times. It's neither right or wrong - nor is it about body parts they may or may not have.. It's just the way things are in my experience. I wouldn't take it as a "question" pertaining to your professional capacity, skills or abilities... I just simply "respect" their wishes, privacy issues etc.. and move on. It's simply the nature of the work we do.

Hopefully that makes sense.

My Best - Charles.


109 Posts

Yes, there are people who see childbirth as a uniquely feminine expereince and want to be surrounded by only women during labor and delivery.

To those people, I'd like to say that I've never broken a bone, so I shouldn't have ortho patients. Seems kind of ridiculous when I put it like that.

HeartsOpenWide, RN

1 Article; 2,889 Posts

Specializes in Ante-Intra-Postpartum, Post Gyne.

If the patient did not have a problem with having you as her nurse then there is no problem. I might talk to some one hire up about this issue with the charge nurse. I personally would never have a male nurse or male OB because I personally feel that L&D is women's business when it comes to me...but if other women do not mind having a male then that is their business!

Just a though, would this same charge nurse refuse to let a female cath a male??

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