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.”