The Gender Divide in Nursing

Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in the world. However, it is also a job that is plagued by stereotypes. While nursing still has a lot to thank Florence Nightingale for, perhaps her view that every woman is a nurse and that taking care of others comes naturally to them has had an unintended long-term consequence. Thanks to this opinion, many men choose to avoid this career path as they believe that it’s a role solely for women. 

However, over the last few years we’ve seen a small rise in the number of men entering the nursing profession, but this still doesn’t change the fact that very few nurses working in the healthcare sector are male. In fact, research has shown that nearly 9 out of 10 of all nurses today are female. But why are so few men choosing this profession and how can we encourage more men into a nursing career? Keep reading below to find out more:

Why Are There So Few Male Nurses?

Efforts have been made in industries around the world to promote gender equality in the workplace, but the fact still remains that the number of men choosing a career in nursing remains extremely low.

Men have served in nursing roles since the beginning of the third century, when special groups of men would work together to take care of plague victims. But times have changed considerably since then. Many people now see nursing as a role solely for women. But why is this?

Continued stereotyping about what a nurse looks like is partly to blame for the problem, but there may be other issues too. The problem is that perceptions of masculinity die hard, in women and in men. It’s not just the men that believe that some of the jobs completed by a nurse are unmanly or demeaning, or worry that they require an emotional side that they do not possess; so do other people, including their wives, their employers and other people in similar professions. This is something that we need to overcome. Nursing is a physically demanding profession that is well paid and very rewarding, so we need to find a way of encouraging more men into this role. 

Why Do We Need More Men in Nursing?

As we mentioned above, in the U.S. less than 10% of all nurses are male. This wasn’t always the case; a millennia ago, it was fairly common for men (albeit during military combat or under monastic orders) to provide care for the sick, injured and poor.

Fast forward to today, and even though gender balance is widely embraced in a number of professions around the world and receives good publicity in the media, the number of men choosing a career in nursing appears to have changed very little since the beginning of the Millennium.

Even though nursing is viewed as a worthwhile career for men, with opportunities for travel, financial security and career development, the view that a career in nursing was solely for women is a powerful deterrent. 

But, why do we need more men in nursing? Firstly, if we think about this logically, half of the world’s population is male. But it may not be enough to contend that in modern society a career should reflect more strongly the gender balance within society. 

Over the last few years, we’ve seen a number of public services improving their gender balance, including the fire service and the police. They found that having a mix of genders can have a number of advantages including:

  • It can improve communication skills
  • It gives a variety of options in terms of taking care of situations
  • It can change the dynamics in the workplace
  • It can change leadership styles in the workplace

But, what about the challenges of men providing personal, intimate care to female patients? Many of these challenges can be overcome by giving the patient the opportunity to ask for an alternative carer to help them. However, currently due to the number of male nurses, male patients aren’t given this option. They have no choice but to accept being cared for by a woman (no matter how intimate the procedure being done). Of course, many people will argue that it shouldn’t matter what your gender is when providing care, but there are some occasions when it does and the patient’s feelings need to be respected and accommodated. 

Nurses are needed now more than ever and we expect to see this demand continue to increase over the next few years. Men can bring a sense of balance to the nursing profession, which can benefit patients as a whole. Having nurses of both genders ensures that all patients are well represented and cared for. Sometimes, patients prefer a nurse of a certain gender. More importantly, the benefits of being a male nurse are exactly the same as the benefits of being a nurse. We all know that this amazing profession would benefit from a more diverse representation of age, gender, and cultures within the workplace.

How to Challenge Gender Stereotypes in Nursing

In order to encourage more men into the nursing profession, we need to challenge the stereotypical view that nursing is solely a role for women. Talking about male nurses in schools and colleges is a brilliant place to start. We can also encourage examples of male role models in nursing and ensure gender balance in nursing publicity. Doing these things will go some way to altering the perceptions of nursing and encourage more males to think about starting a career in nursing. However, more still needs to be done. A huge cultural and societal shift will have to take place before we’re able to change the gender imbalance in the nursing workforce. 

Becoming a Male Nurse

If you’re considering a career as a male nurse, then don’t hesitate to explore your options. There are hundreds of different nursing specialties available and lots of ways to advance your career if you’re willing to put in the effort. 

Before starting your course, it’s a good idea to look into whether the career is the right choice for you. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before starting your career in nursing:

  • Do you cope well in stressful situations? – All jobs are stressful at times, but a role as a nurse can be even more stressful than most. If you think you work well under pressure and you can cope with stress, then this might be a great choice for you. 
  • How easily do you get offended? – Not all patients are happy or friendly; in fact, at times nurses have to deal with patients who are hostile, nasty and aggressive. If you’re easily offended, then a career as a nurse may not be a great choice for you. 
  • Do you like to learn? – The role of a nurse is continually changing and so is the field of healthcare. Whether it’s a new disease that has recently been identified or a new treatment, nurses are continually expected to learn new things. This means that in order to be a good nurse, you must be willing to learn.
  • Do you like working with others? – Teamwork is an important part of nursing. Nurses need to be able to work as part of a team with other healthcare professionals in order to get the job done, such as experts in nutrition. If you’d prefer a role working on your own, then nursing is not the right choice for you. 
  • Are you caring? – If you like the idea of looking after other people and you want to make a real difference, then this could be the perfect job for you.
  • Is it all about the money? – Nursing is an amazing job which pays well, but it is not as highly paid as it should be. 
  • Are you happy to work long hours? – Nurses are often expected to work long shifts, so if you’re looking for a 9-5 job, then this isn’t the career for you. 

Once you’re sure that the nursing profession is for you, you’ll need to choose a course. You should start by finding out the difference between an MSN Vs DNP to make sure you’ve chosen the right option for you. While both are advanced nursing degrees, a DNP is the highest level of education in nursing practice. Students who complete a DNP are more likely to work in management roles than those who choose to complete an MSN. Make sure you do some research so that you can choose the correct course for you. 

Why More Men Should Consider a Career in Nursing

Very few careers offer the same advantages as nursing: nurses earn high salaries, work with some very clever and interesting people and can make a huge impact on other people’s lives. Nurses have always been needed, but we expect to see this demand increasing over the next few years thanks to an increase in the population, the baby boomers retiring, and people living longer. This means that anyone who chooses a career in nursing will not have to worry about finding a job in the future. There will be plenty of opportunities available for them. 

Having more men in nursing is important. The invisibility of men in nursing maintains the stereotypes and can make it even more difficult to challenge these views. There is a huge pot of talent that is not being dipped into because of gender stereotypes and with the forecast for a shortage of nurses in the near future, we need to make sure that the employment opportunities are not being affected by this. 

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