Men in Nursing: The Need for Workforce Diversity

- 05/16/2014

Over the last century a gender inequality revolution has happened. In many parts of the country the idea of men as “bread winners” and women as “home makers” has slowly eroded into history. But one group has not seen dramatic changes in gender equality: men in nursing. As of 2010, men represented only 7 percent of all registered nurses. Quite a mind blowing statistic when you realize the profession was created in 1893.

Registered Nurse Demographics

The Future of Men in Nursing

In a report titled The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health by the Institute of the Medicine of National Academies, several sections identify gender inequality as a problem in the nursing field. Some key obstacles facing men in nursing are stereotypes, academic acceptance, and role support. Evidence supports differences in why men enter nursing careers as compared to women, making recruitment difficult. The fact that fewer men in general are enrolling in higher education causes a further challenge.

Hiring more men in nursing professions isn’t simply a matter of reaching gender equality. It’s not about “evening the playing field” or creating equal opportunities. The authors of the report clearly state that existing best practices and workforce skills are ideal for the needs of U.S. patients. There is an additional functional need for more men in nursing. Look at this section from the report’s recommendations:

While this continuum of practice is well matched to the needs of the American population, the nursing profession has its challenges. It is not as diverse as it needs to be—with respect to race, ethnicity, gender, and age—to provide culturally relevant care to all populations.

And again later:

Nursing is a profession charged to care for a highly diverse population of patients and yet it remains highly nondiverse in gender, race, and ethnicity. The lack of diversity among nurses, with the consequent discordance between clinician and client, serves to reduce the effectiveness of the care nurses provide.

It could be argued the United States is a special case in the nursing world.  It is often referred to as the “melting pot” of nations, referring to the cultural diversity represented. Therefore, there is a need for diversity in the professionals who serve such a population. Many cultures find women nurses inappropriate or would simply prefer male nurses. Furthermore, diversity always improves perspective. A workforce made up of people from the same economic stature, religious beliefs, ethnic background, and gender will have a limited view of patient care. Introducing diversity to any workforce greatly improves the ability to provide quality care. Gender is a major part of diversity.

Recruiting More Men in Nursing

One of the most prominent organizations pushing for more men in nursing is the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN). They have partnered with Johnson & Johnson to provide scholarships for male nursing undergraduates and graduates. They also hold an annual ceremony that identifies the “Best School or College of Nursing for Men.” Other advocacy groups and healthcare organizations see the need for gender diversity and have similar recruitment efforts focusing on men in nursing.

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