The ratio of males to females in nursing is one to ten. Though this is a ratio that has grown significantly, the balance is still far from even. Today’s recruitment methods and the current image of men in the nursing profession still perpetuate the stereotypical image of a nurse.
Women have dominated the nursing field since the early days of the profession when nurses were required to be single, live in hospital sponsored housing and project an image of an angel. It should also be said that no medical schools accepted women for years.
Nursing is a hard job with long hours and carries the assumption that the nurse will always go the extra mile, do the hard work, stay longer and also be sweet, kind and caring. It must naturally appeal to people who are willing and able to meet those standards.
Times have changed and we have been fortunate enough to have more and more men join the ranks of RNs and LVNs, but the profession is still predominantly female.
In the movie “Meet the Parents” Ben Stiller’s character is a nurse. He is the subject of ridicule in his girlfriend’s family for not being a doctor.
It would be nice if this were an exception to the rule, but there are very few representations of men as nurses in tv and movies today, and in the ones that exist the nurse is usually portrayed as gay, emasculated or mistaken for a doctor.
I still have to think before I refer to a doctor as a “he” and a nurse as a “she” although the balance still leans that way. According to this study, there are half the number of female doctors in the US as there are male doctors. The ratio in nursing is ten females for every one male nurse.
Recruitment efforts in the past have focused on highlighting the aspects of nursing that would appeal to the stereotypical male. This, though a clever marketing strategy, ends up being detrimental to the nursing field, as it eliminates the “caring” aspect of nursing, which is a crucial aspect of the profession. The goal is not to recruit people under false pretexts, as they will end up frustrated and disappointed in a profession to which they are not suited.
Ask anyone to describe a nurse and most likely, one of the identifying factors would be “female.” The word alone is so associated with the female gender that for years we used the term “male nurse.” I don’t know that our profession can do what airline workers did and change the term “steward and stewardess” to the more inclusive “flight attendants.”
They found a new title that eliminated gender association. Perhaps nurses can start this trend by referring to themselves and others by their professional designation. “RN” and “LVN” are less associated with a stereotype. Educating the public, as always, is another way we can help eliminate any stigma associated with being a male in the nursing profession.