Fidelindo Lim, DNP, CCRN, and Larry Slater, PhD, RN, CNE
“It does not make a thing good, that it is remarkable that a woman should do it. Neither does it make a thing bad, which would have been good had a man done it …”
Florence Nightingale, 1859
Note on Nursing: What it is and what it is not
The preceding quote is the second to last sentence of Nightingale’s famous book. It looks as if it has been added as an afterthought, her allusion to the the equality between the sexes. In the discussion about men in nursing, her ideas may seem portentous, but it is doubtful if she ever imagined that men would be infiltrating the nursing world. The number of male nurses and men enrolling in nursing programs are at all-time high. The latest figures show that approximately 9.6 percent of nurses in 2011 are male compared with 2.7% in the 1970s (U.S. Census Bureau, 2013) – representing over 200% increase. Here at Rory Meyers College of Nursing, about 10% of advanced practice students and 14% undergraduate students are male during the school years 2014 to 2016. Eight of the full-time faculty are male or 11%. Nationwide, enrollment of men in entry-level nursing programs remains stable at about 15 percent since 2012 (National League for Nursing, n.d.). It is possible that these numbers might increase in the next decade as more media attention is given to the reality of nursing as a viable and rewarding profession for men.
Enter – M.E.N.
The student-led interest group MEN came about in 2009 when a group of male students sent out a call for anyone who identified as male to gather and brainstorm about establishing a group. This initiative came at a time when the enrollment was rapidly growing and changing, with increased the diversity of the student body. A formal process began with the help of the student affairs officer and a faculty advisor for the group to elect an executive board of the first M.E.N. And the group went into action.
In its by-laws, the MEN adopted the objectives of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) as their core purpose. These include:
· To empower male nursing students to be responsible for their holistic health and well-being in order to serve as role models in the community.
· To promote awareness of health related issues affecting the male population by addressing their unique health challenges.
· To promote cultural competence among all its members to recognize the male perspective of nursing.
· To advocate for the growth and development of its members as leaders in nursing and in society through education, outreach, advocacy, and service.
· To promote cultural understanding and appreciation of the contributions of male nurses in global health.
· To promote cultural enrichment, diversity, and discovery through camaraderie.
Throughout each school year, the MEN organizes and collaborates with other student groups to provide high-quality extracurricular programming to meet not just its educational mission but to promote comradery and mutual support among male students in the program. Some of the more recent events hosted by M.E.N include: bike rides and indoor rock climbing, resume writing and interviewing skills, men’s health awareness campaigns and fundraising, alumni networking, picnics, and presentation on various clinical topics of interest. While the group’s purpose relates to men in the nursing profession, M.E.N. is open to students of all genders, with some of the executive board members of M.E.N. in the past couple of years being female. One significant outcome of the group is that several key M.E.N. alumni established the New York City Men in Nursing, an official chapter of AAMN. This allows M.E.N. members to continue their engagement in professional development and mentorship after graduation.
Implications for Nursing Education
“Academic nurse leaders . . . should work together to . . . partner with education accrediting
bodies, private and public funders, and employers to ensure funding, monitor progress, and increase the diversity of students to create a workforce prepared to meet the demands of diverse populations across the lifespan … These efforts should take into consideration strategies to increase the diversity
of the nursing workforce in terms of race/ ethnicity, gender, and geographic distribution.”
The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, 2011
While many health professions are becoming more gender-balanced, the nursing workforce has remained predominantly female. The impact of the increasing number of men entering nursing is still emerging and not yet fully understood. Other countries have long established policies to deal with instructional and practice variations based on religious restrictions. For example, in a nursing school in Oman (in the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula), male students are not allowed in maternity wards. High-fidelity simulation offers male students the “hands on” experience in labor and delivery.
One important consideration in the slowly increasing gender diversity in nursing education is for faculty to be aware of the well-known gendered characteristics in learning, while keeping in mind that every individual is unique. The gendered differences in learning among nursing students is a potential topic for nursing education researchers. Additionally, increasing the cadre of male faculty members will help students find role models.
Career Trajectories of Male Nursing Students
Hospitals remain the largest employer of all registered nurses, with 63.2 percent providing inpatient and outpatient care in a hospital setting (Health Resources and Services Administration, 2013). “Staff nurse” or its equivalent is the most common job title of RNs in the United States. There are no comprehensive data reporting on the current career choices of male nurses. Older data indicated more men work at hospitals in proportion to the number of female RNs (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, 2010). What is certain is that the highest representation by men in all fields of nursing practice is in nurse anesthesia. The US census Bureau reported that 41 percent of all Certified Registered Nurses Anesthetist (CRNAs) are males. An online survey reported that the top three specialties reported by men were critical care nursing (27%), emergency nursing (23%), and medical/surgical nursing (20%) (Hodes Research, 2005). Awareness of the trend of career trajectories and aspirations of male nurses has important implications for nursing education and clinical stakeholders.
A Nurse and a Gentleman
Males are collectively called gentlemen, yet the virtue of gentleness, as a social construct, is mostly associated with women. Perhaps, it is one of the many reasons why it is especially pleasing to see men exemplify gentleness in a nursing role. What male nurses can offer to nursing is to breakdown the stereotypes of professional gender roles. Compassion, courage, good faith, and other virtues are all universal, and can be found among men and women nurses.
Committee on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Initiative on the Future of Nursing, at the Institute of Medicine. (2011). The future of nursing: leading change, advancing health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.
U.S. Census Bureau. (2013). Men in Nursing Occupations American Community Survey Highlight Report. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/people/io/files/Men_in_Nursing_Occupations.pdf
Health Resources and Services Administration. (2013). The U.S. Nursing Workforce: Trends in Supply and Education. Retrieved from http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/reports/nursingworkforce/nursingworkforcefullreport.pdf
US Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration. (2010). The Registered Nurse Population: Findings From the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses. Retrieved from http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/rnsurveys/rnsurveyfinal.pdf
National League for Nursing. (n.d.). Findings from the 2014 NLN biennial survey of schools of nursing academic year 2013-2014. Retrieved from http://www.nln.org/docs/default-source/newsroom/nursing-education-statistics/2014-survey-of-schools---executive-summary.pdf?sfvrsn=2
Hodes Research. (2005). Men in Nursing Study. Retrieved from http://aamn.org/docs/meninnursing2005survey.pdf