Nursing Needs a Few Good Men

In the film Meet the Parents, Greg Focker endures ribbing about being a nurse from Jack Byrnes, the father of his fiance, Pam. Jack questions Greg about his career choice, perpetuating the stereotypes about men in nursing. Pam’s ex-fiance even implies that nursing is not a paid profession but rather commendable volunteer work. While the movie is a romantic comedy and nursing is only an underlying theme, it exposes prevailing attitudes about traditional gender roles. The reality is that men are graduating from Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs and joining the workforce.

What is the History of Men in Nursing?

A precedent for men in nursing exists. John Ciudad established the Brothers of Mercy in 1538 in a hospital in Granada to provide care to the mentally ill, homeless and disabled as well as abandoned children.

St. Camillus de Lellis followed not long after by founding the Order of Ministers of the Sick. Men from his order are credited with forming the first military field unit in Croatia and Hungary in 1595.

During the American Civil War, poet and writer Walt Whitman served as a volunteer hospital nurse.

Why are Men Underrepresented in Nursing?

Florence Nightingale — credited with being the architect of modern nursing — believed that men were not suitable caregivers. Thus, she promoted the trend of women taking care of the sick, thereby dwindling the number of men in nursing.

Since nursing is considered women’s work, men face stigma and misconceptions if they pursue a career in nursing. Many times male nurses are misidentified as physicians or orderlies. Nursing also is inaccurately thought of as a low-paying field. Additionally, men face assumptions about their sexuality and fight the perception that they cannot get accepted to medical school.

What are Pink-Collar Jobs?

Everyone has heard of blue-collar and white-collar jobs, but what about pink-collar jobs? The term refers to roles traditionally held by women. Throughout the 20th century, common pink-collar positions were found in business, education, healthcare, retail and restaurants. Middle-class women worked as:

  • Secretaries
  • Teachers
  • Nurses
  • Saleswomen
  • Waitresses

Why are More Male Nurses Needed?

Men and women are both strong, but males tend to possess more muscle mass. So, they have the physical strength to more easily lift patients and heavy objects.

Most importantly, men in the nursing workforce mirror the diversity of the patient population. A large number of patients are men, and many of them might prefer a male nurse.

A shift in the number of men in nursing is happening. According to the 2015 National Nursing Workforce Study, 5.8 percent of registered nurses (RN) were male in 2000, and the proportion increased to 14.1 percent between the years 2013 to 2015. As Greg points out in Meet the Fockers, the benefits of a nursing career are a high salary, job security and fulfilling work. What Greg did not know at the time was that men would lose well-paying jobs to the Great Recession and turn to nursing as a viable and rewarding career replacement.

Learn more about Northeastern State University’s online RN to BSN program.


The Truth About Nursing: Meet the Parents

Business Insider: 20 Jobs That Are Dominated By Women Men in Nursing Entering a Predominantly Female Career Field

HealthLeaders Media: Men Still Woefully Underrepresented in Nursing

Franciscan Media: Saint Camillus de Lellis

FierceHealthcare: Male Nurses Face Prejudice, Stereotypes on the Job

National Council of State Boards of Nursing: National Nursing Workforce Study

Catholic Online: Saints & Angels – St. Camillus de Lellis

Advisory Board: Why Aren’t There More Male Nurses?

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