Male Nurses—An Untapped Labor Pool

Men may very well hold the key to ameliorating the shortage of nurses that threatens to cripple health care delivery in the not-so-distant future. In spite of being half the population of the United States and the world, men are an almost untapped potential labor pool of nurses.

Men Are Well-Suited for Nursing Tasks

Health care professionals note that men are well suited for the physical rigors of nursing. The long hours on the feet and tasks like having to shift patients’ positions in beds demand physical stamina and strength. Indeed, when they are available, female nurses nearly always turn to male nurses to perform the heavy lifting of nursing. What is more, female nurses turn to male nurses when patients are obstreperous or threatening to go out of control.

Males nurses note that while they are welcome to do such difficult tasks, they are not as welcome in obstetrical-gynecological sections of the hospital and in labor and delivery rooms. There is more suspicion of them when they are called upon to do sensitive examinations of female patients. Some feel passed up for promotions because of their sex.

Discrimination: “Couldn't You Get into Med School?”

For a male to go into nursing requires becoming immune to discrimination that begins in nursing school when the teacher walks in and says, “Greetings, ladies!” to a chorus of giggles or when puzzled friends, relatives and acquaintances ask, “What’s wrong? Couldn’t you get into med school?” Male nurses endure well-meaning folks who assume they must have a gender identity disorder.

Yet in spite of stereotypes that they encounter on the job and in society, a survey by the online magazine Male Nurse Magazine indicated fairly large measures of job satisfaction among male nurses. While admitting nursing is a female-dominated field involving high stress and long hours, most of the 200+ men surveyed by the magazine said they would recommend the profession to friends.

False Assumptions about Male Nurses

  • They couldn't make the grade for med school
  • They are gay
  • They are good only for heavy-lifting

  • They should be banned from ob-gyn work

Even though fewer than six percent of nurses are male (according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services figures), male nurses seem to be well suited to the profession. During times of recession such as this, more and more men who are looking to change to a more reliable profession are taking a second look at nursing. That can only be good for a chronically understaffed field.

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