A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from a prospective nurse practitioner, let’s call him Steve. Steve works in a non-nursing field and is considering a career change- he want’s to become a nurse practitioner. Understandably, he has a few questions before making a drastic career change and spending the time and money to return to school. One of his questions: “Do you think it is an advantage or disadvantage to be a male nurse practitioner?”.
I had never pondered this question. I fall into the majority of the nurse practitioner population which, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, is 95 percent female. As I thought about Steve’s question the answer became obvious. It is a definite advantage to be male in the nurse practitioner profession.
Colleges and universities across the country advertise diversity. They seek applicants of all backgrounds, races, genders, shapes and sizes. Our differences as individuals make us more interesting and educational institutions attempt to maximize this mix. As a male nurse practitioner program applicant, your application automatically stands out. Like it or not, you are different than the majority of NP program applicants simply based on your gender. I’m not saying nurse practitioner programs are admitting males simply based on gender rather than qualifications, simply that it may give you an edge. Or, at least cause admissions staff a bit of a pause as they shuffle through stacks of applications. Being male can only help, not hurt your chances of being admitted to a NP program.
Not only will your manly status help in the educational realm, being male provides a distinct advantage in the workplace. I can already hear the screams and shouts and see the angry comments I am about to receive, but I truly think male NP’s have an undeniable career advantage. There are some stereotypes the health care industry and our patients just can’t seem to shake. Patients stereotype providers as male. When I, as a 20-something female, enter a patient’s room I can feel the need to quickly establish credibility. I have a young face and demeanor and don’t fit the health care provider stereotype. I enter the patient interaction with one strike against me.
My male nurse practitioner counterparts don’t seem to experience this issue. In fact, when I assume care for a patient previously seen by my male NP coworkers, patients often refer to them as ‘doctors’. They fit the profile of the stereotypical health care provider. Although the standard of care we as male and female nurse practitioner’s provide is no different, patients give more credibility to male providers, at least initially.
Being male in the nurse practitioner profession also helps you get hired. Almost half of the nurse practitioners and physician assistants with whom I work are male. This is way out-of-whack statistically compared to the general population of NP’s. I have had employers express to me concern over hiring too many females related to issues such as marriage or pregnancy. “Just don’t all get pregnant at the same time” one former employer said to me referring to the large number of young, female NP’s he employed. Right or wrong, employers consider your longevity with the company including gender-specific reasons such as pregnancy. They can avoid addressing these potential employment strains on the practice by hiring males.
I’m not trying to write a bitter diatribe about the woes of being a female or discrimination in the workplace, being a member of the NP majority confers other benefits of it’s own. Rather, these are simply my observations based on my current and past NP experiences. So, no Steve, I don’t think being a male nurse practitioner will work against you. It will offer you advantages in many aspects of your education and career.
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