By ThriveAP Intern and Healthcare Administrator in Training Stephanie Bauer

Did you know that at one time only men were nurses, not women? Documentation dating back to 250 B.C. shows there was an established nursing school in India that was exclusively for, you guessed it, men. Women were not allowed to attend. At that time, it was believed women were not as pure as men.

Throughout history, men have taken on the role of nursing the sick. During the Bubonic Plague the Christian brotherhood nursed the sick and buried the dead. Males volunteered as nurses during World War I. But, the role of men in the profession gradually changed. Men were forced out of nursing as a result of stereotyping- the unfounded belief by individuals that women are naturally better at nurturing the sick and more affectionate and caring than men. In the early 1900’s women’s domestic roles played into these stereotypes, despite men who shared their compassion and caring for others. Early labor movements and the success of Women’s Suffrage further contributed to the decline in the number of male nurses.

So, which sex, male or female, is really better suited for nursing? Recent studies show the nursing profession attracts men who exhibit a high degree of masculinity. And, why can’t a masculine man be compassionate or caring?

The nursing profession has become more receptive to guys in recent years. I interviewed Lucas, a male nurse who says that “adding a male nurse to the mixture of the healthcare work environment balances out the staff making for a more relaxed working environment”. His patients validate this claim.

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Bringing balance to the healthcare workforce strengthens it by incorporating a variety of perspectives. It increases the overall skill set of the team. Both men and women have individual strengths to contribute to the nursing role. Whether male or female, critical thinking, clinical skills, and qualities of compassion and caring are shared by both sexes. The antiquated thinking that one sex possesses or lacks the capability to be an effective nurse, or is naturally more inclined to nursing is unfounded and a stereotype that thankfully this generation is beginning to overcome.

Here’s a look at a few facts supporting the growing role of men in nursing:

  • Nurses who have worked with male labor and delivery nurses have highly favorable views of men in the profession. 98.5% said male RN’s should be encouraged to work in the specialty.
  • Men account for 6.6% of today’s nursing workforce. While still a minority in the field, this number has increased from 3% of the nursing workforce in 1980.
  • Male nurses have their own nursing organization- the American Assembly for Men in Nursing.
  • Companies are recognizing the growing role of guys in nursing. Examples include MurseWorld, a scrub store devoted exclusively to dudes.

Despite the growing number and acceptance of male nurses, men in nursing still face stereotypes in the workforce. What can be done to help overcome these obstacles?


You Might Also Like: Timeline- A Quick History of the U.S. Healthcare System


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