More Men Needed to Join the Ranks of Nursing

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Male NurseMale nurses are slowly becoming more commonplace, both in the workplace and in popular culture, but there are still hurdles to overcome. Ten percent of all registered nurses are male, according to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. While this percentage is not huge, it is triple the number of male nurses from 45 years ago.

The most common reason men choose a career in nursing is similar to why women opt to become a nurse: a desire to help people and the opportunity to grow in a career with many paths. Also cited in the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) survey was career stability and the variety of places geographically where nurses can work. Over two-fifths (44 percent) of men enter nursing from another career, and 17 percent become a nurse following military service.

Male nurse stereotypes

The biggest challenge to more men becoming RNs is misperceptions of male nurses, mostly caused by stereotypes in the media. One frequently mentioned character is Greg Focker (played by Ben Stiller) in the “Meet the Parents” movies, who is incessantly ridiculed by his father-in-law for his career choice. On television, there’s the affable but incompetent Morgan Tookers (played by Ike Barinholtz) on “The Mindy Project.”

A three-year study of male nurses on television found the characters were “reduced to that of prop, minority spokesperson or source of comedy.” The study reviewed “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Hawthorne,” “Mercy,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Private Practice” between 2007 and 2010. The researchers stressed the need for more positive role models to attract more men to the nursing field.

Researchers from East Tennessee University made an interesting discovery that turns the male nurse stereotype on its head. The study found male nursing students scored higher on tests measuring masculinity than students in other college majors. The researchers concluded that more of an effort should be made to “counteract the prevailing belief that male nurses are effeminate.”

Male vs. female nurse salaries

The gender pay gap also exists in nursing, even though women significantly outnumber men. In 2011, men earned $60,700 on average while women earned $51,100. Some of the contributing factors may be that men are more likely to be degreed and to work in the highly paid nursing occupations.

The highest-paying nurse occupation is nurse anesthetists, of which 40 percent are men. Nurse anesthetists earn $162,900 per year on average. Men are also least likely to be licensed practical or licensed vocational nurses, the lowest-paid nursing occupation.

Men are more likely to attend BSN programs than RN diploma or ADN programs. Over 11 percent of students in bachelor’s nursing programs and over 9 percent of students in master’s nursing programs are men, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Male students are also attracted to the accelerated baccalaureate and master’s nursing programs. One large area for improvement is with the gender balance in faculty. Only 6 percent of full-time nursing faculty is men.

Scholarships for male nursing students

According to an Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, the nursing profession needs to recruit more men in order to meet the impending nursing shortage and create a more diverse workforce. To this end, the IOM and other organizations are offering grants and scholarships for male nursing students.

The AAMN has a number of scholarships available to male nursing students though its AAMN Foundation. In 2014, the foundation awarded a total of $5,000 in scholarships to AAMN members.

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