While nursing still has many more women working in it than men, more and more men are entering the profession each year. Minority Nurse spoke with some men working in the field to find out what they believe could be done to help recruit more men to work in this great career.
Overall, one of the first things that those in the profession need to do, some say, is eliminate the misconceptions about the field. Daniel Satalino, a nursing student at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, says that there aren’t as many men in nursing because of an ongoing stereotype that nursing is solely a feminine field. “Historically, caregiving was thought to be a primarily female responsibility because the female in the family would nurture infants and be responsible for childrearing, while the male would be responsible for hunting,” says Satalino. “However, many men also participated in caregiving as shamans and spiritual healers.”
Satalino also explains that the roots of nursing come from the Catholic Church and the expansion of the Roman Empire where both nuns and monks alike assumed nursing roles in the hospital setting. Likewise, he says, as the plague spread throughout Europe, the Parabolani—a group of men who assumed nursing roles—were the primary nurses for infected people.
“Despite this, many people proclaim that the rise of nursing came with Florence Nightingale, a well-known English nurse who founded standards for nursing care in the mid-1800s, which are still used today. Nightingale also provided education for nurses. However, no males were allowed to enter the profession at this time,” says Satalino. “An influx of males into modern nursing came during and after the second World War, where male nurses were primarily needed in field hospitals and in psychiatric nursing.”
It’s important to know this history, Satalino says, because men have assumed nursing roles in the past, and they can provide great care like their female counterparts. “There have been many campaigns to increase female participation in STEM fields; however, there have been little-to-no campaigns to increase male participation in nursing,” he explains.
Another misconception is the “old school” view that nurses are physician helpers who give baths and hand out medication, says Larry G. Hornsby, CRNA, BSN, senior vice president of operations for the southeast division of NorthStar Anesthesia in Birmingham, Alabama (the company’s home office is in Irving, Texas). “[It] is simply inaccurate and misleading to what this profession has to offer,” he explains. “It is hard to convince the public of the opportunity that exists today with a degree in nursing and the tremendous variation of work choices and the varied job opportunities that exist.”
Besides getting the word out about men working in nursing and what nursing offers, what else can be done to encourage more men to enter the field?
Recruiting more men into nursing begins with educating them. And the earlier, the better.
Carl A. Brown, RN, BSN, is director of patient care services for BrightStar Care of Central Western Riverside County in Menifee, California. Brown has been in nursing for 27 years, having started as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman and a CNA. “It all starts with education. The younger we approach males about choosing nursing as a career path, the more likely they will consider it,” says Brown. “It should be known that nursing is not a female-only career choice. To counteract this notion, I think more male nurses need to participate in community events, career days, or job fairs. More of us need to be out in our communities advocating on behalf of this profession for males. Furthermore, there should be national campaigns launched by nursing organizations to help create more incentives—like a scholarship—to entice more males into the field.”
Matt George, CNA, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, agrees. “The nursing field could attract more men by such measures as having a mentorship program for male high school students—allow high school students to shadow male nurses. This way, they can see what a male nurse does,” he says. The same thing could be done for freshmen at college. In order to attract more males, they need to see males working and achieving in the field. The only way to get more men interested in nursing is by reaching them at a young age and showing them this is a career where men work and can be great at it.”
Hornsby also agrees that reaching high school students would help. Aggressive marketing to the male population is needed as well. “Certainly, the growing need and the autonomy for advanced practice nurses is exciting news that everyone, including men, should hear,” explains Hornsby. “Salaries and benefits have improved over the years, and the opportunities for special work are ever-expanding.”
Explain the Benefits
Another way to help recruit men to nursing is to have male nurses explain why they love being in this type of work. Learning from someone doing the work already can be quite influential.
“For me, the greatest thing about nursing has been my ability to be successful outside the ‘traditional’ role of a nurse. The ability to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and practice to the full scope and licensure in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and physician offices afforded me a tremendous challenge, opportunity for professional growth, and great personal satisfaction,” says Hornsby. “Then moving into a business role and a managing partner/owner of a successful anesthesia management company allowed me to acquire new skills and knowledge, but the opportunity to remain grounded in my nursing roots. Patient care is always at the top of a nurse’s education, clinical training, and a top priority each day. These helped carry me through the business decisions. Other men should really look at the variation of practice roles and how they could fit into an exciting career with growing opportunity.”
Brown has already spoken with a few men who have asked him why he is a nurse. “I tell them that because of my military training, I learned the value of human life and protection our soldiers and sailors. Without those available to fight our enemies, we could not fight to protect those at home,” he says. “In turn, as a nurse today, I tell them that nurses are the most trusted profession there is—more than police, fire fighters, clergy, and educators. We are responsible for ensuring that a father or mother gets back to their children or grandchildren…that we are responsible for ensuring that a family is relieved of the stress of watching their family member pass in distress. Nursing is a field that provides the satisfaction that you have made a difference in someone’s life every day.”
In today’s global society, nurses care for patients with diverse cultural backgrounds and varied expectations about the role of health care in their own lives. Though often unintentional, cultural insensitivity by health care staff can hinder a positive patient experience—and even physical health. As the role of medicine and nursing practices vary greatly from culture to culture, nursing schools are strengthening their efforts to attract more minority students and diversify the nursing workforce.
Why is it important to attract underrepresented groups into nursing? According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals from ethnic and racial minority groups accounted for more than one third of the U.S. population (37%) in 2012, with projections pointing to minority populations becoming the majority by 2043. A 2013 survey conducted by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing and The Forum of State Nursing Workforce Centers found that nurses from minority backgrounds represent approximately 17% of the registered nurse workforce: African Americans 6%; Asians 6%; Hispanic/Latinos 3%; American Indian/Alaskan Natives 1%; and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders 1%.
Jan Jones-Schenk, DHSc, RN, NE-BC, national director for the College of Health Professions at Western Governors University, believes that achieving greater health in our nation depends on having health care providers that “are like” the patients we care for in ethnicity, culture, and other demographics.
“The insights and understanding [that] people of like cultures and backgrounds can bring to the health care experience are difficult, if not impossible, to teach,” says Jones-Schenk. “The shared, lived experience can create a bridge for understanding and improving patient and family acceptance and engagement in health-related activities and behaviors.”
By using a combination of targeted outreach programs, eliminating cultural barriers, and preparing students to treat diverse populations, nursing schools are rising to meet the challenge of expanding student diversity and promoting a diverse image of the nursing profession.
Recognizing the Need
Numerous schools are looking at strengthening their recruitment through outreach campaigns that serve to develop community partnerships with culturally diverse organizations and geographical areas. Last year, the University of Delaware School of Nursing won a three-year, $1 million grant from the federal Human Resources and Services Administration to enhance nursing workforce diversity. The purpose of this grant is to implement an innovative and comprehensive recruitment and retention model that will help increase the diversity of the nursing student body, as well as foster a welcoming environment that promotes interest and success for underrepresented minority and disadvantaged students.
The Nursing Workforce Diversity (NWD) grant funds nine undergraduate nursing students from underrepresented minorities and from economically disadvantaged or educationally disadvantaged groups. Current NWD scholars hail from four different countries; six have parents who were born outside the United States; and the participants speak six languages among them: Spanish, Tagalog, Korean, Shona, German, and English.
“Enhancing nursing student diversity contributes to the value of every student’s learning experience, as each person brings their own unique cultural and ethnic backgrounds to the classroom with discussions and interactions that serve to enrich and enlighten everyone’s academic, professional, and personal development,” says Kathy Kump, RN, MSN, MHSA, CWOCN, FNP-C, the director of nursing at Ottawa University. “This will positively impact the needs of all individuals in our culturally rich and linguistically diverse society that complements the demographics of our current population.”
Removing barriers that may have historically prevented culturally diverse nurses from entering the workforce is an effective tool in diversifying the nursing student population. While Chamberlain College of Nursing does not have a program specifically for Arab American students, in an effort to address their unique cultural needs, Chamberlain College introduced the concept of Chamberlain Care, which encourages colleagues to consider the whole student and not just his or her academic needs.
As an example of Chamberlain’s focus on students, after noticing a number of Arab American student nurses enrolled in the nursing program, one professor contacted the executive director of the National American Arab Nurses Association and helped coordinate a workshop for students and colleagues to gain greater understanding of the cultural differences of the Arab American community. Additionally, for an upcoming clinical course, Arab American students who wear hijabs and long, modest skirts daily requested to wear an alternative to the standard scrub pants. The campus dean, student services advisor, and clinical coordinator worked together to identify a long, scrub dress option that complied with the students’ needs while also meeting the clinical site’s requirements.
“It is a priority at Chamberlain College of Nursing to prepare student nurses to enter the workforce with the knowledge and skills to provide extraordinary care, help our students identify resources that will help them feel more comfortable in their future profession, and engage with peers in different ways outside of the classroom,” says Jaime Sinutko, PhD, MSN, RN, the dean at Chamberlain College of Nursing’s Troy Campus. “We are all vested in all our students’ positive outcomes.”
Preparing Students to Treat Diverse Patient Needs
Central to any nursing school is preparing nursing students to treat diverse patient needs and develop empathy in the workforce. As part of the RN-to-BSN curriculum, Ottawa University offers a Nursing and Cultural Diversity in Healthcare course, which assists the student in improving cultural awareness, cultural sensitivity, and cultural competency as a nursing professional. The course examines how cultural diversity affects health beliefs, health care behaviors, and health/illness dynamics.
“Each week, the student is introduced to diverse population groups through lecture, discussions, videos, and case studies in order to expand their understanding and appreciation of various health care beliefs and health care behaviors in our society,” explains Kump. “It is also designed to prepare students to better implement and evaluate individualized plans to improve health care delivery in today’s global, but increasingly smaller, world.”
In addition to this specific class, Kump says they emphasize cultural competency as a foundation and continuing theme in each course throughout the nursing curriculum and highlight the importance of this competency not only in course objectives, but in the program’s overall learning outcomes, as well.
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