Guest Post by Sean Dent MSN, ACNP-BC, CCRN
Men have been a part of the nursing profession for centuries. The latest statistics show they comprise just under ten percent of the nursing workforce. While this may seem small, the total percentage of men in nursing has grown steadily over the past decade.
Less than ten years ago, the percentage of men in the nursing profession was less than five percent, and now that number should tip over ten percent during 2017. I don’t know about you, but (10% of four million) is not a small number.
As the minority, men must recognize the barriers and challenges they will face when entering the nursing workforce, and the great news is that these are often minimal.
Various urban legends about male nurses have created barriers that are solely based on misperceptions and stereotypes. The reality is that men working in the nursing profession can overcome those misperceptions through sincere passion, a positive attitude, and clear lines of communication.
Here are eight things men working as nurses need to know when adjusting to the profession:
1. Society’s expectations
Guess what? You’re in new territory. You’ve spent the better part of your life in the majority, and now the roles are reversed. You not only have to earn your keep as a budding professional but now you have certain stigmas to face and overcome.
I dare you to count how many times you get mistaken for the doctor, the orderly, or the janitor. It’s not your fault, but you live in a society that has already labeled you. It will be your job to educate them, and you must be prepared to conduct that education almost daily.
Every new patient already has you labeled (in their mind). It’s your responsibility to explain who you are and what you do. What they do with that information is entirely up to them.
2. Losing your man card
Yes, your sexual preference and orientation will be questioned. Whether it’s voiced out loud or subliminally debated, this social stereotype will never die, and you can thank Hollywood medicine for that. The origin of this stereotype is up for debate, but it still seeps into patient care.
Does your sexual orientation impact the care you provide? Absolutely not. But your patient’s comfort level does. You’re not out to prove your side of the story, trust me. When delivering patient care, you need to recognize the reality that such perceptions exist and that the patient’s well-being is your top priority. You may need to step aside and allow a female nurse to take over, and that’s sometimes the way it needs to be.
3. Men are not compassionate
Men are not caring, or at least that’s what society tells us. Men are brash, unfeeling, and rough. How could they ever provide compassionate care with a gentle hand and calming voice?
You get to prove them wrong, and time and time again, men have demonstrated their compassion. Every nurse learns about therapeutic communication and empathetic listening during nursing school. After all, men and women weren’t separated in the course of their education — we all equally learned these skills side by side.
We care for human beings and tend to the human condition during the most trying of times. Your gender does not dictate your emotional worth.
4. Can I get a lift?
No explanation is necessary for this one. Men are perceived to be the “muscles” of the operation; but in reality, we are more than just the hired manual labor. Be sure to advocate for yourself and your skills. Remind everyone you have the education and clinical skills as well as the assumed muscles to contribute to the team.
5. Doctor drop-out
Remember those societal expectations? Most of the society thinks all men should be doctors, and you get to enlighten others on how you purposely chose to be a nurse. You elected to be a critically thinking, independent healthcare professional. Nursing was not a fallback. Doctors are not nurses and nurses are not doctors, even if we do play in the same sandbox.
6. It’s all in the name
If you want to be treated as an equal, then start addressing everyone the same, and that includes yourself. You’re not the “male” nurse, and you’re not the “murse” (I despise that word). You are the nurse who happens to be a man.
When someone asks if you are the “male nurse,” be sure to clarify you are a nurse who just happens to be a man. When is the last time you addressed someone as the “female doctor”?
7. Unequal pay? Unequal opportunity?
Sorry to inform you, but disparities exist, and the statistics are adding up. Men are offered jobs that more qualified women should receive, and some statistics are suggesting that men are being paid more than women to perform the same job.
I would be careful about this subject. Do your homework when this topic is discussed, and be sensitive to the possibility of its relative accuracy.
8. Patient refusal
A patient will occasionally refuse your care simply because of your gender. Get over it — you didn’t do anything wrong. You are not less of a nurse than your female colleagues; you just happened to be a man delivering nursing care. Some of that nursing care is sensitive in nature and will make a patient feel vulnerable and exposed. If they don’t feel comfortable or safe with you, allow them to choose their level of comfort. Remember, it’s about the patient — it’s not about you.
None of these challenges are going away. Be the role model -you get to decide how to handle them. You get to decide what others perceive and learn about you as a professional and your chosen profession of nursing.
You have complete control over how you respond and react to someone’s opinion and perception of you, a man in the profession of nursing. Be the positive, proactive, and confident liaison between what they know, what they should know, and who you truly are.
You can find Sean Dent at his Blog: mystrongmedicine.com
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