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Despite the growing number of men entering the nursing field, women still dominate the field. According to the State of the World’s Nursing summary, only 10% of nurses are men.
The stigma around men in the nursing field is a significant reason why the numbers are so skewed.
While a lot has been done to bring more women into STEM, few initiatives encourage men to serve as nurses or in other caring roles. Here’s what we need to change to end the stigma.
Stereotype 1: Nursing is Women’s Work
Women represent a clear majority in nursing for two reasons: the original nursing school only accepted female students and cultural stereotypes. In the past, women had to barricade men from job roles to be able to work at all, so the “caring” female archetype worked in their favor.
Since nursing holds the double negative stereotype of being a “caring profession” and “women’s work,” men are pressured to stay away from these roles. However, no profession is actually gendered. The barriers that society puts up for men and women are 100% fabricated.
What can be done: While gender roles are made up, that doesn’t mean they don’t affect us. We should consider highlighting the “male” aspects of nursing, like hard work and high pay, because it will do a lot to lessen the stigma. We should also highlight the career’s flexibility.
For example, male nurses can open themselves up to more opportunities by applying with a travel nursing agency. Typically, travel nurses get paid 2-4 times the amount of regular nurses.
Stereotype 2: Men Aren’t Empathetic Enough to be Nurses
The stereotype that “men don’t cry” is incredibly harmful to men because it establishes this idea that men lack empathy. To make matters worse, men are often punished for defying gender norms in the workplace, despite men showing just as much compassion as women.
Both men and women may feel that male nurses are less skilled, patient, or empathetic than their female counterparts, but that simply isn’t true. Still, this inaccurate assumption can dissuade many talented and caring men from becoming nurses, and that has to stop.
What can be done: Men and women in the healthcare field should try not to comment on the man’s gender when entering the field. Treat them as people, not as a “rarity.” Council staff members and patients respect them based on their talents, professionalism, and hard work.
Male nurses should also work hard to play their part in breaking the stigma. If they’re more present in the industry, they won’t look out of place, so staying active in your field is important.
Stereotype 3: Nursing Was Their Second, Third… Choice
Men face the common misconception that they “settled” into the nursing role because they didn’t have the skills or drive to become physicians. It’s common for patients to assume that the male practitioner is the doctor, which typically makes the patient act in shock when they aren’t.
Even when men are vocal about their love for nursing, people may think they’re “just saying that” to save face. But there are so many great reasons for men to become nurses. Assuming otherwise doesn’t just hurt men, but it also disrespects the profession as a whole.
What can be done: Nursing offers exceptional career options for both genders and is a very difficult position to get into and stay in. Nurses typically interact more with the patient, handle bloodwork, and prep the patient before the doctor sees them, making them especially valuable.
Universities can offer scholarships or grants in the field, as they do for women in STEM, to prove that men choose nursing for so many other reasons other than because it’s “easy.”