Male Nursing Myths: Are You 'Man Enough' to Accept the Challenge?

Male Nurses

Think nursing is just for women? Think again. Men have been trying for decades to push their way past the assumptions, prejudices and myths to tap into the female-dominated field. But even with a nursing associate’s degree and a long list of qualifications, it’s not always easy for a man to be accepted as a nurse – especially when a strong societal belief is that a man belongs in a suit working in a downtown office, or as a firefighter or policeman.

Look at Gaylord Focker, Ben Stiller’s male nurse character in the movie “Meet the Fockers.” He had to put up a fight with his girlfriend’s family to earn the respect he deserved for being a nurse and not a doctor. Or what about hospital-themed T.V. shows, which include a slew of female nurses, but rarely shows a male nurse? Both of these instances emphasize the public’s collective belief that nursing is, and should possibly remain, a female-dominated occupation.

Before you decide to run for the hills, instead maybe you should take the challenge of becoming a male nurse – (a man always likes a good challenge, right?).  

To truly understand the impact a man brings to the nursing profession, we debunked some common myths associated with men as nurses.

Myth #1: Hospitals and clinics don’t want to hire male nurses.

Hospitals want to hire more male nurses because they offer a new energy to the unit.

“I have had several female nurses and managers tell me that when males are on the unit the Esprit de Corps (morale of the group) is better,” said James Tollefson, RN, Rasmussen College School of Nursing faculty member.

“Males have also been known to be more task-oriented and enjoy the challenge of hands-on nursing specialties, such as intensive care and the emergency department,” said Bill Hartman, MSN, RN, Nursing Dean Rasmussen College Green Bay Campus. “In either of the departments men are able to be challenged both mentally and physically by the patient population.”

Hospitals also like to hire men as nurses because of their physical stature. A man’s ability to lend a helping hand with the frequent lifting and positioning of large patients has become a positive influence for all staff within the patient care settings, according to Hartman.

Myth #2: Male nurses aren’t marketable.

There are many ways a male nurse is able to market himself.

“Institutions [hospitals, clinics and colleges] are always looking for diversity, and being a male nurse helps with this issue,” said Tollefson. “I have also found that managers will seek me out for my opinion on issues because I bring another perspective [to the table].”

Diversity is a top strength in nursing, and men that embrace that strength bring an interesting and distinctive perspective to the healthcare field, according to “Male Nurses Helping Change the Face of Nursing.”

Another way a male nurse can be marketable is by seeking out positions where physical stamina and analytical skills are required.

“Use your skills and abilities as your selling points, along with your dedication to excelling in anything you set out to accomplish,” said Hartman. “Flexibility, adaptability and the desire to help fellow team members, as well as be an active participant of the healthcare team, are top priorities for healthcare organizations [looking for new team members].”

Myth #3: No male nurse actually wants to be a male nurse.

The truth is all males going into nursing are not “wannabe doctors” who couldn’t “hack it in med school.”

“There is [definitely] still a very prominent gender issue for male nurses,” Tollefson said. “Patients, staff and nurses continually ask, ‘why aren’t you a doctor?’”

Even so, there are plenty of men who dream of becoming nurses, just as women do.

Hartman began his nursing career more than 30 years ago because he was very interested in the areas that can go wrong in a human body, He was also easily able to interact with both male and female patients in a caring role as opposed to a diagnostic role, he said.

Other men have come to the conclusion the nursing profession is a viable option for them that includes many diverse career paths.

“I chose this career in 2000 because I saw the need for nurses due to our aging population,” said Tollefson. “Plus, I was looking for a marketable career for my future financial stability.”

Myth #4: Being a male nurse is taking “the easy way out.”

Male nurses all over the world can probably agree the job isn’t an easy one.

Nurses will face tough nights on the floor, a cranky patient experience, or the most heart-wrenching agony experienced by family members who just unexpectedly lost a family member, Hartman said.

Besides facing difficult experiences, there are many skills a male nurse needs.

A nurse must possess exceptional math and science skills, as well as good communication, technical and critical thinking skills. Nursing also offers an adrenaline rush, which is perfect for the male who enjoys a job that keeps him on his toes, according to CareerToolkits’ “Men in Nursing.”

In addition, becoming a nurse sometimes appears as a type of entry level position in the healthcare profession, since there is always the possibility of expanding your knowledge and becoming a doctor. However, most nurses go into the field wanting to become a nurse; about 90 percent of male LPN nurses choose to become a nurse before any other job ambition, according to LPN Programs Guide.

And not only is the job not easy, but there are constant hurdles that only male nurses must overcome. Two of those common obstacles include the fact that many women patients remain uncomfortable having a male nurse and prefer a female nurse take care of them, as well as the fact that men (for the most part) can’t work in the maternity ward, said Jim DeMaria, BSN, RN, in a Scrubs Magazine article.

Myth #5: There are no rewards or challenges in male nursing.

You might not end up with the same salary as a doctor, but “variables such as schedule flexibility, excellent pay and the daily challenges of nursing make the job very rewarding,” said DeMaria. He added, “I’ve always liked comparing the nursing approach to that of the U.S. Marines: They adapt, improvise and overcome. Working just one nursing shift will prove that point.”

For those not searching for the common 9-to-5 job, a position in nursing is intriguing. A nurse may work long hours for three or four days a week, and have three days off; the scheduling really depends on a nurse’s location, but most are afforded various scheduling options.

The pay is another reason one goes into nursing, whether female or male.

The median salary for a registered nurse in 2010 is $64,690, and the median salary for a licensed practical nurse in 2010 is $40,380, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Myth #6: Men aren’t compassionate enough to be a nurse.

Men go into nursing for many of the same reasons women do. They want to make a difference, they feel they had a calling, and they want to feel like a hero.

In fact, the top reason a man enters the nursing field is due to his strong desire to help people, according to a 2005 study by the American Assembly of Men in Nursing (AAMN).

What drew me to nursing, not as a man, but as a human, was the interaction with people and the reward of helping others, said DeMaria. “That is a universal truth for nurses, be they male or female.” “I like to get people’s stories (some are heartbreaking, and some are quite funny), finding out as much as I can about them, the way they live and who is around to assist them with their needs.”

Nurses, no matter the gender, consider all those aspects while caring for patients and creating their specific plan of care. The healthcare industry is searching for “those folks that possess the skills that will make the patients smile while providing the most science-based, high quality nursing care possible,” Hartman said. “I believe most healthcare settings are looking for these soft skill traits in males who bring with them the ability to thrive in the fast-paced, ever-changing environment of today’s healthcare settings.”

So, men, what are you waiting for? Are you ready to take on the challenge of becoming a male nurse? Tell us why you are choosing to pursue a degree in nursing on our Facebook page.

External links provided on Rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced.

Jennifer is a Content and Social Media Specialist at Rasmussen College. She researches, writes and edits blog posts designed to help and inspire current, past and future students through their entire educational process in an effort to encourage learning at a college level and beyond.

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