It’s no secret that nursing is still known as a female-dominated field. In fact, this perception has kept otherwise interested males from enrolling in Nursing programs. And yet, both patients and the industry alike welcome male nurses with open arms.
Let’s take a look at the current status of male nurses in the US, specifically breakdown statistics, salaries, challenges and advantages.
According to recent 2017 data, of the total 3.3 million workforce, about 9.1% of all US nurses are male. It’s still a small percentage but in comparison to previous years, this number shows a growing number of active male registered nurses. Back in 2013, the percentage of male RNs was 6.6%, and in 2015, this number went up to 8%.
Salary is a big factor in nurses pursuing and staying in their chosen careers.
The average salary for male nurses is $76,273, and this varies depending on a variety of factors including state, nursing specialty, and years in practice. The more you rack up education credits, years as a practicing RN, and excellent employee evaluations, the higher your chances of being on the high end of the pay scale.
If you are a male nurse, you are in the 12% of the nursing population, and this can be an effective conversation starter in order to connect more easily with patients, doctors, and fellow co-workers as well. This can help in building an environment wherein communication is encouraged. Building reliable connections and relationships with co-workers can be a great boon to your career as a male nurse as well as in building rapport with your patients, something that is very necessary in order to provide proper care.
It is also likely that the job search is easier as a male nurse. Since the nursing field is comprised mainly of women, healthcare facilities may be more likely to hire you if you prove yourself to possess the same skills and competency. Travel nursing is also a more viable option because of the generally higher pay available to male nurses.
Although not beneficial to their female counterparts, it is a fact that male nurses have a higher general salary average. They earn $6,000 more than female nurses.
It is also safe to say that all the benefits of being a nurse also apply to being a male nurse as well. The profession in general means being able to provide support and comfort to patients, being able to positively affect a patient’s healing, and being able to see the fruits of your efforts in the improved conditions of the patients you’ve interacted with. Similar to a doctor who heals, this is a privilege that not many are able to experience.
Other than the given gender-related biases towards male nurses, there aren’t many severe disadvantages present in being a male nurse.
One common disadvantage is that males are usually tasked with heavy lifting, be it lifting medical equipment or lifting patients onto or off of beds or chairs. However, if you can handle it, people will thank you for your contributions.
It is also common for the older generation to look at male nurses differently as they may not be so used to male nurses in general. This usually goes two ways. Older patients, especially females, may feel self-conscious in the presence of male nurses during certain sensitive procedures. On the other hand, male nurses may also be doted upon especially if they call to mind a favorite “nephew” or “grandson”.
Another possible cause for concern is the heavy emotional exposure nurses are subject to daily. Men who have been brought up emotionally constipated will be challenged by the more emotional side of the profession, including end of life moments or critical illness in pediatric patients, to name a few situations.
Gender Stigma For Male Nurses
Quality of health services is an essential factor in terms of health care access. Access encompasses a range of dimensions such as geographic distribution of healthcare facilities, affordability, accessibility and acceptability.
However, even if patients do have access to healthcare services and do get to see a healthcare provider, they will not necessarily be able to access good quality care because of certain barriers in the provider-patient relationship.
In highly patriarchal societies, the importance of gender concordance between healthcare provider and patient is a highly sensitive issue because of socio-cultural and religious norms. This does not only set the boundaries of gender roles but also limits social and physical contact between men and women.
As a male nurse, you will have opportunities to do cervical exams, assist in deliveries, insert Foley catheters to drain the urine of female patients, conduct breast assessment, perform perineal care, and do many other things that require physical contact with a female patient. This is where the most challenging part arises: that male nurses must cope with sexual stereotyping regarding suspicion surrounding intimate touch. If a female patient misinterprets your actions as “sexually assaulting”, then you can get into trouble and may even potentially lose your hard-earned license.
There will always come a time when female patients or even male patients will refuse your care. However, don’t let patient preference get to you. It’s natural to be in these awkward moments as they are often inevitable.
As a professional, it is important to keep in mind that it is competence that matters and not gender. Keep in mind that being a male nurse will have no bearing on the quality of care that you can provide.
Remembering to be professional at all times and focusing on the task at hand will minimize negative social relationships in the workplace in terms of both patients and colleagues. Unless it’s a cultural consideration, a patient request, or a hospital protocol, you’ll find that most patients are accepting of care from male nurses. You’ll just have to be ready for a range of scenarios that could spell otherwise, and in times like these, abide by the rules and regulations of the healthcare facility regarding gender roles.
Higher Perceived Expectations
Being a male nurse comes with the additional challenge of facing different expectations from your family and colleagues. Because the nursing field is dominated by females, males sometimes feel they need to strive harder just to prove that they can stand on the same level as their female counterparts in terms of competency.
Women are perceived by a lot of patients as more gentle, caring, nurturing. This contrasts with the perceived manly traits of strength, aggression, and dominance. It may be a generalization, but it is a reality that persists in some cultures nonetheless. However, this is merely a stereotype that is damaging for the nursing profession in general. Male nurses can be as caring and competent as their female counterparts and even excel in this field.
Male nurses face role-traps and stereotyping almost everyday. Many people do believe that nursing is not for men. Patients, watchers, doctors and even your co-nurses may automatically jump to negative assumptions if you are a male and pursue nursing as a career. This is as men who work in jobs emphasizing attributes traditionally assigned to women may be labeled as homosexual and be subject to other such stereotypes.
However, it is important to realize that what is most important is the opportunity to give compassion and healing to patients who are in need. Because of these challenges, male nurses need to possess a strong sense of self if they are to resist these stereotypes and continue to pursue their nursing career with competency, compassion, and conviction.