Student Models for Essay #3

The Common Prejudice against Men as Nurses has got to go!

by Marc Prickett

Fall 2010
English 302N16
Dr. Ellen Moody


Modern history has painted nursing as a career for women, and in so doing has led to stereotypes that discriminate against male nurses, deterred males from entering nursing, and made it difficult to recruit males to help ease the current nursing shortage. Florence Nightingale's views on nursing resulted in belief that caregiving was feminine, and resulted in the exclusion of men. Male nurses have faced discrimination in nursing schools, their opportunities for employment, and mainstream portrayals of nursing have made recruitment and retention of male nurses difficult. By rejecting traditional male and female roles created by masculine hegemony, progress can be made in the recruitment of male nurses to address the nursing shortage. Children are influenced in schools by stereotypes of male and female roles, and teachers and society can help in avoiding reinforcement of nursing stereotypes.

Changing our Perspective on Male Nurses

Nursing, in the past, has been seen as "women's work" because it is a caregiver role. Women throughout modem history were believed to be the best caregivers, an innate characteristic of their gender. As more men become nurses, the view that nursing is a career for women only is diminishing, but it is still prevalent in our society. Men who choose to become nurses face barriers from both men and women. This paper explains the history that led to the view of nursing as a career for women only, describes the discrimination that male nurses face, illustrates the effects of discrimination against male nurses, and analyzes the roles of males and females in our society. In doing so, we find out how male and female roles can be changed so that males in the United States may be recruited to address the current nursing shortage.

Historically men hven't always been considered as outsiders in nursing. Bruce Wilson states "the first nursing school in the world was started in India in about 250 BC. Only men were considered 'pure' enough to become nurses" (as cited in Vallano, 2008, p 116) Wilson continues that male nurses are seen throughout history: in monasteries, on ships exploring the New World in the 1400s, and during the civil war in camps of the South and North.

Many nursing organizations in the late 1800s and early 1900s restricted men from entering nursing. Florence Nightingale, known as the mother of modern nursing, may have had the greatest influence in feminizing nursing. Brown, Nolan and Crawford (2006) note that "Florence Nightingale was a strong advocate for both women and nursing, and considered traits such as nurturance, gentleness, empathy, compassion, tenderness and unselfishness to be essentially feminine and essentially nurse-like" (para. 4). Brown et al. continues "Nightingale herself believed that men's 'hard and horny' hands were not fitted 'to touch, bathe and dress wounded limbs, however gentle their hearts may be "(para 5). Nightingale's view led to the exclusion of male from nursing. The exclusion of males from nursing resulted in discrimination due to this creation of nursing as feminine. Of cousre she was at the time trying to justify this kind of task as a profession allowed to women, which would not endanger their chastity from men (as men would not be included in staffs).

Schwartz (2006) and writers at (2001) believe many men choose different career paths because of the stereotype that men can't provide the same quality of compassionate care. Schwarz continues thqat this stereotype makes caring appear as a feminine characteristic. Nursing is the confluence of caring and science in the service of patients, their families and friends, and communities. The stereotype that care is feminine leads men to feel they risk losing their masculinity by becmoing a nurse. He adds that he is "saddened that men need to assert their worht and abilities as caregivers, rather than being accepted and valued in that role in the same way women are" (para. 10). Few would argue that the gender of an actively engaged Father makes him less able to care for his children. Why would gender limit the ability of the same man to provide quiality nursing care. Nurses ought to be judged by the care they provide and not a preconceived ability to care.

Another stereotype faced by male nurses connects to common attitudes towards touch. Harding (2008) recognizes that touch is an important part of nursing. Touch is more difficult for men "because of discourses which have 'feminised' innocent (not sexualized) touch and 'sexualiazed' men's touch as such" (p. 28) As society extends gender stereotyping, it has become conditioned in those seeking care that touch is expected from a woman but not from a man. Touch from a man "opens space for misinterpretation, suspicion and accusations of inappropriate behavior" (Harding, 2008, p 29).

Homophobia has also shaped the view of male nurses, and resulted in discrimination. Nutter (2010) states:

"In traditional American culture homophobia in men has not only been indulged, it has been respected. And the impact of this phobia was by no means limited to maintaining the great divide between straight men and gay men. Anything associated with male homosexuality -- from dancing and creativity to male beauty and friendships with women -- has been stigmatized, too, estranging the straight American male from human traits erroneously labeled as 'gay'" (p. 158).

Human traits like compassion and caring are often seen as feminine, and a man's use of touch is seen as sexual or feminine. Homophobia has resulted in the view of male nurses as gay. Harding (2007) believes, "discourses which stereotype male nurses as gay ... create a potent barrier to the provision of care for other men. The continuing stigma associated with homosexuality may deter the entry of more men into nursing." Not only does homophobia deter men from entering nursing, but Harding argues that "a profession which espouses an ethic of care may be a significant issue in the retention of male practitioners" (p. 643). In order to make progress in recruiting males to nursing, society and the profession need to embrace that it is also ok for men to care.

Stereotypes of male nurses are spread by today's mainstream media. A staff writer (2001) notices that there is criticism of men becoming nurses in society, which is shown in movies and TV shows. The writer quotes "even though gender roles have changed over the last 30 years, nursing is still described by some as "women's work" (para. 7). In Meet the Parents, the main character is a male nurse who is laughed at for not being a doctor. On the popular show Glee, a female is criticized for taking a job as the high school football coach, a dominantly male job. The head coach of the cheerleading team, Sue, played by Jane Lynch, remarks, "female football coach, like a male nurse? Sin against nature" (Brennan, Falchuk, & Murphy, 2010). The ideas perpetuated by Hollywood and society discriminate against the male nurse, and reinforce the stereotype that nursing is a woman's job.

The current method of recruiting nurses reinforces stereotypes. As Schwarz (2006)mentions, the recruitment technique of saying "Nursing . . . A Real Career for Real Men" is an issue in itself. In essence, recruiting efforts make the statement that the only way to attract men into nursing is to make it seem "manly." Schwarz continues that he doesn't refer to himself as a "male nurse" becuase he's "no more or less a nurse because of my sex than my female colleagues are because of theirs."

Once recruited into nursing schools, it is common for male nursing students to face discrimination from teachers in their own nursing education programs (Keogh & O'Lynn, 2007, p 256). Due to this discrimination, males decide to drop out of nursing school. Much of this goes unrecorded. The oppositon they face is the unspoken idea that males don't belong in nursing. Once employed, male nurses face discrimination in the specialties they are expected to join. Chung (2001) states that male ') nurses still have difficulty in being accepted into maternity units. Women feel uncomfortable having a male nurse treat them, although they don't seem to have any difficult with male doctors.

According to Keogh and O'Lynn (2007) the patients may not be the only ones that are keeping men from treating them in maternity units, but the instructors that are responsible for placing the nursing students in these units may keep them from developing interest in this discipline. Men are steered to "emergency departments, intensive care units, and nurse anesthesiology" (Masters, 2005, p 115). Masters also mentions that in the past, males allowed into nursing were tolerated for their physical strength, or ability to handle "difficult or aggressive patients." In many instances, males weren't seen as nurses, but orderlies, and inferior to their female counterparts."

Males nurses are also affected by the same discrimination women experience due to hegemonic masculinity norms, and the domination of male influence. Hegemonic masculinity norms are used to create stereotypes of male and female and limit what we are allowed to do. Men were historically encouraged to become doctors, financial tycoons, and engineering: Women, were first encouraged to be mothers, and later were encouraged to become nurses, secretaries, and teachers. As discussed, discrimination has limited men from entering nursing. Yet as an article on (200 1) states, "in light of the current nursing shortage, healthcare leaders acknowledge that the nursing profession needs to attract more men" (para. 10). One leader, "D.S Rep. Louis Capps recently testified . . . that healthcare leaders must look beyond the traditional roles assigned to particular segments of society" (para. 10).

Given the stereotypes that men face as nurses, how can we move beyond traditional roles? One way, is to deconstruct male and female roles. Stereotypes of male and female roles have limited career options for men and women. These limitations have led to homogenous environments in many careers. The problem is that "the more homogenous a group is, the worse it solves problems . . . Single-gender groups do not make decisions as thoughtfully or as skillfully as mixed­gender groups because they operate within a single frame of references (Miller, 2010, p. 16). When men and women work together, they complement each other to get the job done. Despite a paradoxical resistance to the idea there are gender differences (while stereotypes and sexual faultlines in assessing people go on), they do exist. These differences are notable in brain structure. Women's brains have structural differences that make "it easier to multitask; Men are usually left-brain oriented, and better at solving abstract equations and problems" (Krotz, 2010, p. 147). Gender differences don't make men or women better at various careers. The differences are not the kind that preclude this or that general task in the marketplace world. Rather, when the weaknesses of men and women are offset by the other's strengths in a heterogeneous environment, better outcomes occur.

Deconstruction of the traditional male role as provider will also help recruit more men to nursing. Low pay has also kept men from entering the nursing profession. Even though pay has risen for professional nurses over the years, ($37,738 in 1992 to $46,782 in 2000) (, 2001), men had to choose a different career fields that paid more to support their families. Even today, nursing doesn't pay the lucrative salaries paid to doctors, lawyers, or chief executive officers.

However, as more women take on leadership positions in various fields that pay better, the role of men as financial provider will decrease. Increasing the number of scholarships for women interested in pursuing careers dominated by men, and increasing recruiting of women into these fields will further decrease barriers. As the role to be sole financial provider decreases, the pressure to enter fields that are lucrative will also decrease. An encouraging sign is that more women are entering careers. Still, more needs to be done. According to Green, Jegadeesh, and Tang in 2005, "Only thirteen percent of all financial analysts were female. Although gender imbalances exist in many industries, women are grossly underrepresented in finance" (as cited in Miller, 2010, p. 14). Women have been excluded from leadership positions as they were seen as the weaker sex. Possibly men wanted to keep those lucrative careers to themselves? The realits is "women possess: an ability to empower staff, a desire to build rather than to win, and a willingness to compromise, which make them great for CEO and leadership roles in companies" (Krotz, 2010, pp. 148-149). The ability to compromise was seen as a weakness in the past. Now we admit such an ability is a team-builder. As more women succeed in male-dominated careers, traits previously seen as feminine, or weak, like compassion, caring, and the ability to compromise have gained acceptance. The acceptance of these traits will allow men to possess these qualities without fear of discrimination. Destruction of the stereotypes of acceptable traits and qualities will aid in defeminizing nursing.

Some argue that women leaving nursing for other careers may be partially responsible for the nursing shortage. But as women have made strides in male-dominated careers, the number of male nurses has increased. Chitty and Black (2011) state that among employed RNs, 5.7% were men, and "the number of men is still growing at a rate faster than that for the total RN population ... " (p.2). Chung (2001) mentions that men are a minority in nursing. Progress still needs to be made against acceptable male and female roles. Increasing the amount of scholarships available to male nurses will help in this fight. As more women enter other fields, the recruitment of males is vital to addressing the nursing shortage.

While more efforts are being made to recruit male nurses, there is also the issue of retaining men who become nurses. Breaking down the barriers that male nursing students face is one way to help retain men. Nursing schools need to provide a "supportive and equitable learning environments for all students" (Keogh & O'Lynn, 2007, p. 259). Keogh and O'Lynn suggest male nurse role model for male nursing students. Very important is that males be equally considered for employment as nurses everywhere. Such role models will help in providing support and respect. In addition, Chung (2001) suggests that camaraderie, through male nursing organization could also help in retaining men.

How children are raised will also help in the fight against traditional gender roles. Barnett and Rivers (2010) state that segregation by sex is learned in schools, after they interact with and are made aware that there should be differences among boys and girls. I am the leader of a group of eight-year old Cub Scouts. When the boys found out that I was a nurse, they laughed and said it was a "girly" career. It reminded me of when I laughed as a boy at the news that my uncle was a nurse. He was the first male nurse I had ever met. I hope that I can be an example that it is acceptable for males to become nurses. Teachers and parents need to fight together against the traditional roles established by masculine hegemony.

I feel that I am a by-product of my mother who encouraged me to embrace characteristics seen as feminine and masculine. It has been this teaching that has largely shaped what I have become. It is my hope that 1) through an increase of male nurses, 2) the increase of females into male-dominated careers, and 3) by all of us embracing both masculine and feminine characteristics that someday "the term male nurse will fade from use, replaced by the word nurse to describe both men and women who perform that role" (Vallano, 2008, p. 116)

Annotated Bibliography

  1. American Society of Registered Nurses. (2008). Men in nursing. Retrieved December 4,2010, from
    This journal article describes the discrimination male nurses face. It discusses the importance of The recruiting males as to help with the nursing shortage. This source was beneficial in providing a nursing viewpoint on males in nursing and the problems they face. The article has a limited amount of statistics on males in nursing.
  2. Avery, R. (2007). Number of male nurses is increasing. Retrieved September 26,2010 from
    This is a news article that illustrates that males are become more prominent in nursing. Nursing needs to break stereotypes, especially since nursing was originally a male dominated profession. The news site is based out of Canada, but I felt it reflected nursing in the USA, but it lacked statistical information on US nursing conditions.
  3. Barnett, R., & Rivers, C. (2010). Children do not naturally segregate by sex. In K. Miller (Ed.), Male and Female Roles (pp. 41-50). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
    This is a chapter from a book that discusses various viewpoints on male and female roles. This source iss used in describing how children don't learn sexual differences until they enter school. This source doesn't mention nursing directly, and includes mostly observations and substantiated opinions.
  4. Brennan, 1., Falchuk, B., & Murphy, R. (Writers) & Falchuk, B. (Director). (2010). Audition [Television Series Episode]. In 1. Brennan (Producer), Glee. Los Angeles, CA: Ryan Murphy Productions & 20th Century Fo~ Television.
    This is the transcript from an episode of Glee. It was used to describe one example in mainstream media that stereotypes mail nurses. Other than one scene, this source doesn't relate to my topic.
  5. Brown, B, Nolan, P., & Crawford, P. (2000). Men in nursing: ambivalence in care, gender and masculinity. International History of Nursing Journal, 5(3), 4-13.
    This is a journal article that tells more about the history of nursing and the involvement of males in the profession. It discusses the influence of Florence Nightingale on the exclusion of male nurses. This was a great resource on the history of men in nursing, and was used to describe some of the stereotypes of nursing. I was only able to find part 1 of this article, and wish I could have found access to the rest of the journal article.
  6. Chitty, K. K., & Black, B. P. (2011). Professional nursing: Concepts & challenges (6th ed.). Maryland Heights, MO: Saunders.
    This is a great book on current nursing issues, and the state of nursing. It was used to establish current statistics of males in nursing. The book is focused more towards healthcare professionals, but is a great resource for understanding issues faced by the nursing profession.
  7. Chung, V. (2001). Men in nursing. Minority Nurse. Retrieved September 26,2010 from
    This article comes from a journal minority nurses, and referred to male nurses as a minority nurse. This was a great resource for statjstics of males in nursing, and discussed many of the issues male nurses face. Although, I didn't use this article often in the paper, it influenced many of my ideas in researching this paper. Statistics were available on the site, but it includes mostly testimonials from minority nurses.
  8. Harding, T. (2007). The construction of men who are nurses as gay. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 60(6), 636-644.
    This journal article includes first-hand experiences of males in the nursing field and discusses the stereotype of male nurses as gay. It describes how the stereotypes influence interaction with patients as well as other nurses. This was a main resource that I used to show that male nurses are seen as feminine. The men interviewed were in New Zealand, but much of this information is relevant in the United States.
  9. Harding, T. (2006). Suspect touch: a problem for men in nursing. Nursing Journal, 23:28-34.
    This journal article discusses stereotypes of nursing as a touch-based profession, or as feminine. It discussed the stereotype that men who use touch have ulterior motives. This source was great in showing discrimination that male nurses face from patients and society. This article was limited to touch being a problem for men in nursing, and doesn't mention other problems males face from sexual codes.
  10. Keogh, B, & O'Lynn, C. (2007). Male nurses' experiences of gender barriers: Irish and American perspectives. Nurse Educator, 32(6),256-259.
    This journal article is a collection of first-hand experiences of male nurses in Ireland and the United States. This article focuses on the experiences of male nurses in education and the limitations that they face from professors. This article helped establish the discrimination male nurses face during school. This article could have included the nursing professors' perspectives.
  11. Krotz, J. (2010). Women make better corporate leaders. In K. Miller (Ed.), Male and Female Roles (pp. 145-151). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
    This was a chapter from a book that discusses various viewpoints on male and female roles. This chapter focused on both males and females who are employed in fields dominated by the opposite sex. It provided my argument for heterogenous work environments that. This chapter is based largely on substantiated opinions, and does not include scientific research.
  12. Masters, K. (2005). Role development in professional nursing practice. Sadbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
    This book discusses the roles of males and females in nursing. It helped to illustrate the areas of nursing that male nurses tend to work, and the use of male nurses for jobs that require physical strength. The only limitation was this was an e-book, and not all chapters were included.
  13. Miller, K. (Ed.) (2010) Male and Female Roles.. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
    This is the introduction written by the editor of the book on viewpoints on male and female roles. The introduction largely discussed the role of women in the financial sector. This section, since it is only an introduction, does not include as many viewpoints or information as the other chapters in the book.
  14. (2001). Challenging society's gender roles an important missionfor male nurses. Retrieved December 4,2010 from < ahref="­features/Challenging-Society%E2%80%99s-Gender- Ro les-an- Important - Mission- fOT- Male­Nurses 20446.aspx">.
    This is an article from an online nursing community which provides resources and articles on nurses. This article helped establish the importance of changing gender roles in society to recruit more men. This site recognizes that work environments benefit from a heterogeneous workplace. The only limitation is that the website is geared for nurses.
  15. Nutter, C. (2010). Men are becoming more like women. In K. Miller (Ed.). Male and Female Roles (pp. 156-166). Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.
    This was a chapter from a book that discusses various viewpoints on male and female roles. This chapter discussed how homosexuality is represented in the media, and how homophobia influences nursing. It is a substantiated opinion that lacks research, and only briefly mentioned nursing.
  16. Schwarz, T. (2006). I am not a male nurse: Recruiting efforts may reinforce a stereotype. American Journal of Nursing, 106(2), 13.
    This article inspired the idea for my paper. It is a letter from the editor of the American Journal of Nursing. It discusses his perspective on stereotypes, and current recruitment methods of male nurses. It is a short article, and I would have liked to read more about his personal experiences as a male in a female-dominated profession.
  17. Vallano, A. (2008). Your career in nursing: Manage your future in the changing world of health care. New York, NY: Kaplan Publishing.
    This source is a great resource for nurses, almost like a handbook on how healthcare affects the nursing field. The source could be a great benefit to nurses at any point in their nursing career. This book is aimed towards the nurse professional and may not be a resource that is used by those who are outside nursing.

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