The Male Nurse: Why So Few of Them?

“Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse?” asks a recruiting ad produced by the Oregon Center for Nursing to attract male applicants to its nursing schools. The chronic shortage of nurses in their state prompted Oregon officials to try to make nursing more macho so as to appeal to men.

The campaign ads featured male nurses who play sports, serve in the military, and ride motorcycles. The campaign was wildly successful.

The Face of Nursing Needs a Beard
Despite the fact that the male nurse salary is at par with their female colleagues and abundance of male nurse jobs there are far too few male nurses even today.


Middle school and high school guidance counselors had reported to the OCN that boys considered nursing strictly a girls’ profession and were unmotivated by messages that nursing was a good profession for people who cared about others. Emphasizing emergency-readiness, physical stamina, good decision-making and courage in risky situations was a far better sell. What was more, the face of the nursing educator needed a beard–boys were turned off that most nursing instructors were women.

Making nursing macho means emphasizing:

  • emergency-readiness
  • physical stamina
  • good decision-making
  • courage in risky situations

There isn't much nursing schools can do about a lack of male instructors. They are short-handed when it comes to nursing teachers of any sex, let alone men.

However, nursing schools throughout the country are reporting to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) that they are working to change the image of nursing to be more all-inclusive so as to attract males into the profession. They are trying to “beard the nurse” by making at least their recruiting materials less female-oriented. Male nurses are being asked to serve as poster boys to get the message across that nursing is a macho profession.

Photos of Men Performing Heroic Nursing Tasks Helped

The AACN has singled out the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing, the University of Iowa College of Nursing, and the School of Nursing at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston as schools that have successfully increased their male enrollment and retention rates in nursing. For all three schools, a key part of the process was taking a critical look at their recruiting materials. From color usage to more masculine fonts, recruitment brochures became more appealing to men. Photos featuring men performing heroic tasks in emergency settings also helped.

Facing chronic shortages, the nursing profession does well to tap into this manpower resource through making the face of the nurse less gender-specific and making sure recruiting and educational materials, nursing schools and nursing jobs are more male-friendly.

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