Being a male nurse poses a wide array of challenges. Physical, mental, social, and emotional factors can either have a positive or negative impact on your role as an “angel of the sick room”.
Some men shy away from the nursing field because of the perception that this is a field dominated by females. But, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of male registered nurses has tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.
As a male nurse myself, here are some of the hardest things about being in the nursing profession.
Editor’s Note: This post is authored by one of our new contributors and reflects the author’s personal and professional experiences.
Gender Biases are Real
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 the 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 you can lose your hard-earned license, dignity and respect.
There will always come a time when female patients or even male patients will refuse your care. But don’t let patient preference get to you. It’s natural to be in these awkward moments and they are usually inevitable.
As a professional, it is important to keep in mind that the competence of the person should matter and not the gender. Keep in mind that being a male nurse will have no bearing on the quality of care that you can provide.
Remember to be professional at all times and focus on the task at hand and you will do just fine. Unless it’s a cultural consideration, a patient request, or a hospital protocol, you’ll find that most patients are accepting care from male nurses. You’ll just have to be ready for a range of scenarios and abide by the rules and regulations of the healthcare facility regarding gender roles.
Also Read: Male Nurses: On Defying Stereotypes
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 be on par with their female counterparts in terms of competency.
Case in point, women are perceived by a lot of patients as more caring, nurturing, and gentler. This contrasts with the perceived manly traits of strength, aggression and dominance.
But this is just 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.
In fact, the demand for male nurses is currently increasing. Recognizing the need for more male nurses has led the American Assembly for Men in Nursing to run a campaign called 20 X 20 in order to recruit more men into the nursing field.
Male nurses face role traps and sex typing almost everyday. Many people in general believe that nursing is not for men.
Patients, watchers, doctors and even your co-nurses would automatically jump to conclusions that you are either homosexual, or incompetent for the job, or both, if you are a male and you pursue nursing as a career.
Men who work in jobs emphasizing attributes traditionally assigned to women can be labeled as gay. Some people think that if you are really a man, then you would do a “man’s job”? Never mind that we live in the modern world where gender equality is supposed to be a given.
Male nurses have a strong pressure on them to comply to society’s norms and need a strong sense of self if they are to resist this stereotype, and continue to pursue their nursing career.
Also Read: 16 Male Nurse Jokes (Of Murses and Men)
The He-man Label
Simple reality: males are physically stronger than females. If you try to check your work schedule, there is always balance in it – it is rare for you to see an “all-women workforce”.
Of course, men are perceived to have greater physical strength, which translates into being expected to do all the heavy lifting especially in the absence of lifting aids, and if you are the only male on shift.
Nursing is a rewarding and challenging career for people of either gender. Men enter the world of nursing for the same reasons as women: they want to be an instrument of care and they like the complexity of the job with the possibility of earning a decent income.
As the demand for male nurses continue to rise, we can look forward to the day when “male nurse” would be a long-forgotten term.