Discrimination Against Men in Nursing

  1. The following is a quote from a paper written by Shawn Gardiner describing a scenario in which discrimination in nursing against men is wide spread, oppressive, and accepted. I agree with him completely with regard to the same. I am a male RN, a paralegal, and a biochemist.
    The Web site for the organization under which the quote was posted is entitled "Nurses Forum". It's URL is:http://www.nurses-forum.com/
    The URL for the web site containing the quote is:http://www.nurses-forum.com/ubbthrea...9617&type=post

    "I just did a paper for freshman english here at Syracuse University, and happened to find this forum while researching. This is my paper if you're interested ...

    The Hyper-Visibility of the Male Nurse and the Invisibility of the Male Nurse's Discrimination and Struggles

    Nursing has been a profession throughout history. The first known record of nursing as a profession was in ancient Rome when groups of men organized to treat victims of the plague. The first American nurses were medics during the civil war; most of which were male. Women nurses, although the minority gained much recognition due to their involvement, and in 1901 the United States Nurse Corp was formed, a strictly female organization. Since then, the nursing profession has become primarily female dominated and therefore schools, organizations and workplaces all have turned towards female interests. In response to these actions and divisions, the nursing profession became stereotypically female in the mind of society, and the male nurse became invisible. The hyper-visibility of female nurses is very prevalent today, even as more male nurses join the nursing workforce. The new merge of males into the nursing profession is due to many different issues including higher pay, a greater demand for nurses, and an improvement in tolerance and understanding of diversity in society. Still, male nurses are stereotyped and face struggles in the classroom and in their profession. This is the result of decades of generalizing nurses as female, and in turn, male nurses face discrimination from educators, patients, and other nurses. Male nurses struggle with the stereotypes placed on them due to the dominance of women in the nursing practices. In this way, male nurses are not easily accepted by society, even with growing numbers in the field and people and groups pushing for equality for male nurses.
    The Civil War began to shape nursing in America into its modern form. At that time males were the dominant gender in the field, because nursing was based around the military, and the military was primarily male. However, female nurses were most recognized for their nursing efforts in the war and still are today. A hyper-visibility of female nurses began due to the fact that women on the battlefield were a rarity. Women who undertook this job were the first to be a part of the on battle site military, and therefore were honored as daring and courageous, much more so than male military nurses. The, then, newfound popularity and familiarity of the female nurse drastically transformed the profession into being female dominated. In the late 1800's the American Nurses Association (ANA) was formed, then under the name Nurses Associated Alumnae and was strictly female. This rule remained until 1930 when the organization began to accept men, but in a once all female organization, male membership was rare. The United States Nurse Corp formed as part of the military in 1901 was also strictly female. It wasn't until the Korean War when men were finally allowed into this division. These two organizations dominated the two occupational fields in the United States, public and governmental. In this way these associations, not only affected, but guided the segregation in the field of nursing from their formation around the turn of the 19th century with decades of strict codes against male nurses.
    Male nurses, today, account for about 5.7 percent of the Registered and Professional Nurses in America, the most popular types of nurses, and 5.4 percent of all nursing professions. In nursing schools, about 13% of students are male. This shows a strong rise in the male interest in the field of nursing. Increased male interest in the field of nursing can be tied to several issues. First, nursing school enrollment is down, and there is now a shortage of nurses in many areas throughout the United States. This has provoked interest in males because nursing is now a field with many job and advancement opportunities that other professions can no longer offer. Also, due to the increased need and also increased specialization of nurses, the wage of nurses is rising at a higher rate than many other professions. A job as a nurse can be a very efficient job for a male in a household with both working parents. In addition, with the growing acceptance and tolerance of breaking gender barriers in society today, males are more willing, and less embarrassed, to enter a female dominated field.
    In addition to the increased advantages of males entering nursing, schools and job providers are also taking new steps to promote males into the nursing profession. A new slogan "Are you man enough to wear white" is part of a campaign by medical educators. This statement is specifically designed to break the feminine stereotype of nurses and, in contrast, promote a masculine attitude about the profession. This type of campaign has been successful because the rate of males to females entering nursing school has risen greatly. Sadly however, dropout rates in nursing schools for male nurses are higher than those for male nurses. After completion of college or nursing school, male nurses continue to struggle. Male nurses have a significantly lower job satisfaction and leave the profession at twice the rate of female nurses. This is most likely due to many factors that have risen due to the female dominance of the occupation.
    Gender discrimination for nurses begins in the classroom where classes are focused primarily towards the female student. Books and other materials, especially older references can refer to nurses as "she", indicating all nurses are female, and mention males only as patients or doctors, never nurses. In this way, males have been placed in a learning environment with a sharp female bias. In the workplace, male nurses often stand out against the female nurses and are often treated differently by their supervisors, co-workers, and patients. In this way, male nurses feel and often are forced to perform at at a higher standard due to their hyper-visibility. Patients often resent or even reject male nurses, because they are uncomfortable, probably due to stereotypes and mental preconceptions. This is especially evident in labor and delivery departments of hospitals where male nurses may not be permitted either by their job description or patient request.
    The nursing occupation is generally stereotyped as feminine, because of the job history and also qualities of a typical nurse. Nurses are expected to be caring, gentle, and compassionate, qualities stereotyped as female and rejected by males. In this way, male nurses have to break this barrier and in doing so are often generalized as feminine. This can lead to accusations of homosexuality or weakness, both strong and damaging classifications to males in modern society. These stereotypes are often very hard to deal with, and take strong self-confidence to get over. In addition, male nurses can be seen as unmotivated and under-achievers, as compared to other medical professionals, primarily doctors. These stereotypes can cause embarrassment and stress among male nurses in the workplace, and in public, which most likely leads to the high quitting rate.
    Media has a large role in the portrayal of male nurses to the public. Movies and TV shows reflect life situations in a surreal manner, often times using stereotypes for character development and humor. One such from of media is "Meet the Parents" in which the character Gaylord (Greg) Focker, played by Ben Stiller, is a male nurse. The name "Gaylord Focker" is an obvious stereotypical characterization, which immediately implies homosexuality. His personality is depicted as flamboyant and his speech flippant. Engaged to his fiance, Pam, Greg is criticized and made fun of by Pam's parents, specifically her father, for his homosexual-like flamboyancy, tall tales, and most importantly his occupation as a nurse. In a dialogue from the movie, Greg's occupation is clearly diminished by the characters of Jack Byrnes and Bob Banks.
    Jack: Greg's in medicine too.
    Bob: What field?
    Greg: Nursing.
    Bob: Ha ha ha ha. No really, what field are you in?
    Greg: Nursing.
    In this conversation, nursing as a male profession is clearly rejected, by the character of Bob, as a means for satirical humor. The laughing and requisitioning implies a denial of the possibility of a male nurse and is direct and demeaning. Through these types of media portrayal of male nurses, society is not only given the idea that males do not belong in the nursing profession but also that using male nurse stereotypes is acceptable for humor.
    Humor, derived from males in the nursing profession, can come from sources outside of the media. T-shirts sold online at AllHeart.com can be found with the saying "Be nice to me/ when you're in the hospital/ Your butt is in My hands!" The T-shirt, entitled "Be Nice to Male Nurses Medical Humor T-Shirt" can be bought for $14.98 plus shipping and handling. This commercial example of humor expands the exploitation of male nurses, by almost literally selling the stereotypes. This T-shirt directly attacks and generalizes male nurses as aggressive and dangerous. The "Be nice to me..." statement, demonstrates a demand for power, which can lead the fear and suspicion of male nurses, both by patients and co-workers. In the utmost irony, the T-shirt is directly targeted for sale to male nurses, which are the people it is segregating against. A male in the nursing profession, who wears the shirt, would in fact be generalizing himself, and therefore only adding to the stereotypes that lead to the suspicion and fear as well as the other negative mentalities associated with male nurses.
    Males in nursing have strong opinions toward the stereotypes and generalizations as well as the discrimination that these mindsets create. A poll by Male Nurse Magazine posed the question, "Do you feel that males are represented fairly within nursing?" In response almost two-thirds, over 65%, chose the response, "No, I feel we are overlooked at this time". According Male Nurse Magazine an increase in the choice of the "No ..." response has risen in rate, from previous surveys that posted the same question and choices. A clear majority of male nurses do feel that inequalities occur for them either in or outside of the workplace. This majority is growing, and therefore the broadness and importance of the unfairness is also increasing.
    Males in the nursing profession are both invisible and hyper-visible in the scope of society. Visually in the work place they are hyper-visible because they stand out in a strongly female dominated profession. To patients and coworkers a nurse that has a title beginning with Mr. is unusual and therefore treated in a different manner. Patients and staff often deal with, and have different standards, for male nurses. This only adds to the hyper-visibility of the male nurse. Males in nursing are invisible in that their struggles and efforts to revise bias in nursing often times are under appreciated or unnoticed. Society and the media are not as interested in male nurses breaking gender barriers as women in male profession. Also, Women are usually given more respect and credibility for their efforts in breaking their barriers. In this way, male nurse occupational gender barrier movements are hyper-visible, especially compared to the women's movements.
    Male nurses face the same type of struggles, and often at a higher level, than females breaking gender barriers in other professions. The typically suppressed female worker along with other groups are using several types of discrimination to hold back males in the field of nursing. This reveals a reverse segregation for male nurses which is gaining throughout society. Whereas stereotypes of certain groups are highly discouraged and penalized in today's society, jokes and generalizations of male nurses are often accepted in both society and the media. This greatly hampers the male nursing movements, and greatly affects male nurses in their confidence and mentality. This can lead to poorer job performance and poorer job satisfaction. Many male nurses are pushed to the point of leaving their job. The discrimination that male nurses face in America today needs to be recognized by society so that acceptance and respect can be given to both male and female nurses equally. If not, the previous stereotypes will remain, and male nurses will continue to be held down, unable to ever experience gender equality in nursing."


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    Last edit by Demonsthenes on Sep 21, '05
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    About Demonsthenes

    Joined: May '05; Posts: 102; Likes: 15


  3. by   papawjohn
    Hey Demonstenes

    Fella asked me once--long time ago, not as many men in Nursing--what did I do? (Usual male sorta question--don't think it's as usual for the fair and gentler sex to inquire of each other about 'where do you fit into the status pyramid'.)

    I'm a nurse, I replied.

    He was a little dumfounded. Oh...he says, a male nurse?

    Yeah, I take 'em to work with me, I said.

    From Shaun's paper: "...patients often resent or even reject male nurses..."

    I'd have to fluck poor Shaun on that paper unless he could document that and I very seriously doubt he could. In 25yrs I think I've been 'resented and even rejected' exactly once--and that Patient was male!! (He was playing power games with the <female> dayshift Nurses and he found soon enough that they didn't work with me, so he 'fired' me.)

    It's true enough that I had a learning curve to ascend before I felt comfort with the nurturing, caring side of myself. But it wasn't that tough. The gifts of empathy and the desire to help out someone who is suffering are not exclusive to women. IMHO, they're not given to women in any greater degree than to men.

    Anyhow--tired of old worn-out gender stereotypes.

    Papaw John

    PS Whatever happened to footnotes on term papers? Bibliographies?
  4. by   VickyRN
    We just hired a young male fulltime instructor at our school of nursing. I think this is a great move, as we are having more and more male students interested in our nursing program (especially second-career males).
  5. by   RN34TX
    Quote from Demonsthenes
    ....One such from of media is "Meet the Parents" in which the character Gaylord (Greg) Focker, played by Ben Stiller, is a male nurse. The name "Gaylord Focker" is an obvious stereotypical characterization, which immediately implies homosexuality. His personality is depicted as flamboyant and his speech flippant. Engaged to his fiance, Pam, Greg is criticized and made fun of by Pam's parents, specifically her father, for his homosexual-like flamboyancy, tall tales, and most importantly his occupation as a nurse. In a dialogue from the movie, Greg's occupation is clearly diminished by the characters of Jack Byrnes and Bob Banks.
    Jack: Greg's in medicine too.
    Bob: What field?
    Greg: Nursing.
    Bob: Ha ha ha ha. No really, what field are you in?
    Greg: Nursing.
    In this conversation, nursing as a male profession is clearly rejected, by the character of Bob, as a means for satirical humor. The laughing and requisitioning implies a denial of the possibility of a male nurse and is direct and demeaning. Through these types of media portrayal of male nurses, society is not only given the idea that males do not belong in the nursing profession but also that using male nurse stereotypes is acceptable for humor.
    Am I the only guy here who didn't see the Gaylord Focker character as a "flamboyant" one?
    Just because he wasn't portrayed as a tobacco chewing man's man who only talks about sports, hunting, and women (likely indicator of closet homosexuality) doesn't mean that he has "homosexual-like flamboyancy." I know a good share of straight guys who I'd characterize as more feminine than his character was to me. He was a regular guy with insecurity about impressing his future in-laws and made for a great movie, IMHO.
    I think it was a comedy intended to play on the old stereotypes of Gaylord's future father-in-law's generation, and in his day it wasn't as acceptable for men to be nurses. I think that this paper took that movie a little too seriously.
    Just my opinion, and I'm not denying that discrimination exists, but if men in nursing are so discriminated against, then why does it seem to me that the better paying areas of nursing seem to have the highest population of men working in them?
    I mean, I rarely see male nurses when I'm in a clinic, doctor's office, etc.(typically lower paying positions) yet the majority of CRNA's that I have contact with in OR everyday are men. I've worked LTC and have often been the only male nurse in the entire building but have yet to be the only male working in any ICU and sometimes we outnumber the women in these areas on any given night.
    Of course that's not all the time but we are still only a tiny percentage of the overall nursing workforce so it's obvious to me that we are concentrated in certain (and often better paying) areas.
    I realize that male nursing students or nurses are sometimes encouraged/pushed into pursuing these areas by their own instructors or colleagues and are often discouraged from working in places like the nursery due to gender bias but I still think this paper went a little out in left field in it's description of male discrimination in the profession.
  6. by   papawjohn
    Howdy Tx

    Right on! The end of the movie showed 'Gaylord' as enough of a 'victor' or 'hero' as anybody needs to be. The whole thing was pretty light anyhow. Hard to take it seriously as an indicator of 'discrimination'.

    Also agree 100% regarding discrimination 'within the field'. Actually, once I began to achieve some mastery of the craft (interpreting 12leads, running drips & vents, dealing with pressure lines, etc) I felt that most of the women I worked with gave me full credit for my skills. (That is, willing to accept me fully as a peer if they were also in the 'eagle scout' cadre or to be mentored is they're newbies.)

    The only place where I've experience any sense that I didn't fit in because of my Y chromosome was in PedsICU (a little bit--esp with infants) and in NICU (where I was pulled once in a while and found to be a very very very high estrogen-index place.)

    Any NICU or Peds nurses have a contribution?

    For what it's worth--still wondering who'd turn in a paper on a serious topic with no documentation.

    Papaw John
  7. by   Demonsthenes
    Papa John. Your assertions of no discrimination against male nurses seems to be based upon your personal experience rather than the experience of most male nurses as per the original article and the law suit which below is described. From the raw evidence, and the evidence presented in the law suit below, it appears that male nurses who complain about discrimination because of their gender are subject to retaliation, discharge, black listing, and rude and insulting treatment, such as you have demonstrated.
    The URL for the web site containing the article is located:


    Lawsuit alleges sexual harassment

    BANGOR - Fed up with comments such as "men are jerks" and "men are idiots,"
    a former male nurse at Eastern Maine Medical Center
    has filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging he was sexually harassed by
    the female nursing staff and discriminated against on
    the basis of gender.

    Daniel Lufkin, 41, of Medford also alleges that EMMC violated the Maine
    Human Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Family and
    Medical Leave Act, and retaliated against him for filing complaints over his
    alleged treatment.

    He is seeking a jury trial and punitive and compensatory damages. A trial
    date has not been set.

    Lufkin received a "right-to-sue letter" from the Maine Human Rights
    Commission after the commissioners were unable to consider the
    complaint within the required time limit.

    Lufkin worked as a registered nurse in the intensive care unit at EMMC from
    1998 through mid-2004. Incidents cited in the
    complaint, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Bangor, occurred in
    2003 and 2004.

    His attorney, Joseph Baldacci of Bangor, declined Wednesday to comment on
    the case.

    The hospital's attorney, Frank McGuire of Bangor, denied Wednesday that the
    male nurse had been treated unfairly.

    "EMMC investigated and addressed Mr. Lufkin's complaints at the time he made
    them in 2004, and no job action was taken against him
    because of those complaints," McGuire said. "EMMC firmly believes that it
    has not treated Mr. Lufkin unfairly.

    "Beyond that," he continued, "it's not the practice of the hospital to
    discuss personnel issues in the newspaper, but we will
    respond appropriately in court."

    Lufkin's complaint outlined in the lawsuit includes allegations that he was:

    . Told to shut up by female co-workers and supervisors when he tried to
    offer an opinion.

    . Subjected to or threatened with acts of physical humiliation or
    aggressiveness by co-workers.

    . Given verbal and written warnings for alleged performance-related issues
    as retaliation for workplace complaints.

    . Denied advancement and career opportunities in ICU even though female
    co-workers were offered positions.

    . Threatened with discipline although he had been granted a leave of

    As a result of the working conditions in ICU, the nurse has not worked at
    EMMC since last summer, according to Baldacci. Lufkin
    currently is not employed.
  8. by   papawjohn
    Hey Demonsthenes

    Listen, bud--if I sent any offensive electrons your way--I want 'em back right away!
    As I sit here I'm really really not feeling hostile or aggressive. Just the opposite!! I imagine a large room of peers and like-minded people sharing jokes, sad stories and a few jokes and light remarks at someones expense--but in a warm friendly way. I looked over my posts and don't see anything offensive--but if you did...well please accept my apology.

    And BTW--I can take it as well as dish it out, so don't mince words if you disagree. I love informed disagreement and spirited argument and have found myself to be wrong from time to time. And I'm glad to find that out--'cause I wanna correct my opinions if someone proves me wrong.

    Hope enough said?

    Anyhow--on topic: The fact that somebody can bring a lawsuit because the state board that reviews them was "unable to consider...within the required time limit" doesn't prove much. Except obviously that this one guy feels discriminated against.

    Any male nurses feel like Nurse Lufkin does, victimized by "physical humiliation or aggressiveness" by their female associates? Has anyone been "denied advancement" because they need to shave their chin? Wow. I could be wrong about this--but if I am it'll really surprise me.

    I guess also that I should be more specific about what I mean by 'documentation'. I'm sure there are surveys out there reqarding 'job satisfaction' by RNs in various settings and probably broken down into gender categories. I bet SOMEONE--a fed agency, a Nursing magazine or journal, a Hosp Administration journal devoted to 'HumanResources'--SOMEONE has a list of complaints that male RNs/LPNs make about their jobs. If I had a student (which thankfully I'm not a teacher) who turned in a paper regarding male Nurse being victims of discrimination and cited an undecided law suit and a comedy movie for proof--well, that student would have some remedial Freshman English to do before passing my coarse. Of course, I'm known for being very very...

    Grumpy Ol' Papaw John
    (but smiling!)
    Last edit by papawjohn on Aug 20, '05
  9. by   suzanne4
    Please just list the link, not the entire article here. It is actually against copyright laws for the full article to be posted here without express permission of the author.
  10. by   Alkarzar
    "Sadly however, dropout rates in nursing schools for male nurses are higher than those for male nurses"

    He might want to fix that . I am going to start my nursing studies in about two weeks so I can offer my experiences then
  11. by   fergus51
    Papawjohn, I've only worked OB and NICU (I'm a woman). I've worked with a few men over the years (there are currently 2working in my unit). The only time I've seen any problems were with breastfeeding teaching in the NICU. Some husbands don't like other men to see their wives breasts. None of them seem to get trouble from us female nurses. I could care less the gender of the nurse. I get SO sick of hearing that women are catty and women are the reason for all the problems in nursing, so there is no way I would ever start making generalizations about men.... Maybe I have grounds for a lawsuit too
  12. by   suzanne4
    I have worked in specialty areas for years, and they all have had a large percentage of male nurses.

    Harassment can go either way, and I am sure that you can find articles about female nurses that are suing for the same reasone. You are posting only about one case.

    Even where I am working now, there is definitely a large percentage of male nurses, as well as males respiratory therapists.
  13. by   Little Panda RN
    I just happen to be reading the posts on this board. There is all kinds of discrimination going on each and every day. But I do agree that the male population is discriminated against in so many ways. But I wont get into that here. I just wanted to say that I personally find it very refreshing to work with the male population. I believe there should be more male nurses. To all of you male nurses reading this post, we love you and thankyou for all the giving and caring that each and everyone of you do on a daily basis. Keep up the good work You are appreciated!
  14. by   NurCrystal22

    How are you stereotyped and discriminated against? By patients? Coworkers? What do they say to you? I only ask because I enjoy all of the nurses that I work with that are men. I don't treat them any differently except maybe not mentioning my "female" problems in front of them... but other than that... I have a lot of respect for them... the same respect I have for nurses that are female.

    Why do you care so much? Okay so you're a nurse, not a MALE nurse, but a NURSE. As long as you keep doing you're job, IGNORE all of the ignorant people, don't let them bring you down!

    So what if the profession is dominated by women? As you said, interest is growing so maybe one day in the future it will be different.

    Anyways, I personally think that nurses, male, female, whatever... ROCK!