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The Importance of Male Representation in Nursing

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Published July 21, 2022 · 5 Min Read

Male representation in nursing helps to broaden gender diversity and may help close the nursing shortage gap.
The Importance of Male Representation in Nursing
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Nursing has a history of being a female-dominated profession, in much the same way medicine has been a male-dominated profession. These trends may be related to when nurses were once considered a doctor's "handmaiden" and not a professional in their own right.

The trend in medicine has slowly been changing with a growth in the percentage of female medical students. Although the changes in the percentage of male nurses have been slower, male representation in the nursing profession is slowly creeping upward.

We discuss male representation in nursing by the numbers. Find out why having male nurses is important to the profession's growth and what barriers men have faced in the past, and continue to face, as nurses.

Male Representation in Nursing: The Numbers

Data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing National Nursing Workforce Survey suggests that while the percentage of male nurses is not rising as quickly as females in medicine, it is rising.

The statistics show that from 2013 to 2020, the number of baccalaureate-prepared nurses has been rising, while the number of associate-degree nurses has fallen from about 33% to 28%. The percentage of diploma nurses has also fallen, while master's and doctorally prepared nurses have remained stable.

The percentage of male registered nurses rose from 6.6% in 2013 to 9.4% in 2020. The percentage of male licensed practical/vocational nurses also rose slightly from 7.8% in 2017 to 8.1% in 2020.

Year Number of Nurses % of Total Female % of Total Male
1977 1,417,665 98.05% 1.92%
1988 2,049,213 96.26% 3.33%
1996 2,558,874 95.32% 4.89%
2008 3,063,163 92.98% 7.00%
2018 3,272,872 88.97% 9.60%

Source: Health Resources and Services Administration's Nursing Workforce Survey

Data from the Health Resources and Services Administration's Nursing Workforce Survey show the majority of male nurses were employed in a hospital in 2018. There was a higher percentage of males who chose hospital nursing over female nurses and a higher percentage of men in other inpatient settings.

By comparison, there was a higher percentage of female nurses in outpatient clinics and ambulatory settings. Statistics from 2008 show a similar distribution of female and male nurses in hospitals and ambulatory care.

Despite data that show male nurses are in the minority, the median full-time earnings by sex in the 2018 survey show a gender pay gap in nursing where men made an annual salary of $79,930 compared to women making $71,960.

Why Male Representation in Nursing Is Important

There are several misconceptions about male nurses that may create a barrier for more men to enter the field. Increasing male representation in nursing can help reduce or eliminate these misconceptions, which can lead to gender diversity and greater representation in healthcare.

The Importance of Male Nurses

Just as females have broadened the gender diversity horizon in medicine, it is as crucial for more men to step into nursing. Solving this gender imbalance can improve patient care and potentially accelerate the profession's development. Increasing the number of men in nursing can ensure a larger talent pool for healthcare institutions and agencies to pull from.

Men may also help increase the diversity in the profession. Nurses can then become a greater force for public policy change. The gender of the healthcare provider can make a difference in patient care too. Just as women often prefer to share personal health conditions with women, men often prefer talking with men.

Overall, the profession may be best served when it better represents the population of people they serve. A more diverse and balanced nursing profession may shift the focus in nursing to a balanced view of science.

How to Encourage More Males to Become Nurses

Some nursing schools have taken the initiative to recruit more men into the nursing program. One program at Chamberlain University is led by Jacksonville Campus President W. Jason Dunne, DNP, MN, RN, CNE.

Dunne mentions in a DailyNurse article that "diversity of the nursing workforce is a fundamental element of building a solid foundation of our profession that is reflective of the patients and families that we serve through our nursing care and practice."

The Chamberlain program has worked with the American Association of Men in Nursing in its recruitment efforts. They have also requested input from student committees and organizations, and incoming male students, to build a more well-rounded recruitment strategy.

It is also essential to eliminate the misconceptions about men in nursing and begin educating men early about the positive aspects and benefits of becoming a nurse.

Barriers Male Nurses Face

Even with the strides made in the past years, there continues to exist a stigma about male nurses. There is a stereotypical image that nursing is "female work," which has also plagued women in nursing who strive to excel in science and research that expands the profession.

Another deterrent may be a lack of strong male nursing role models and mentors in healthcare organizations. Without adequate exposure to positive role models, prospective students may have an image of nursing as a feminine profession. This can be damaging to recruitment efforts.

Society has long associated men with medicine and women with nursing. While the stereotypical male role in medicine is evolving, removing the female and feminine aspects from nursing has been a slower process.

Benefits of Becoming a Male Nurse

There are several benefits to becoming a male nurse. There is the reward to helping people, often during some of the worst times in their life. There are also benefits that directly affect the male nurse, including:

  • Healthy employment demand

    There is a nursing shortage across the U.S., which opens employment opportunities for men and women.
  • Salary potential

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual nursing salary is $77,600. This is higher than the median salary for all workers.
  • Advancement

    Nurses have unique options to move into management positions with a bachelor's in nursing. They may also attend an online nursing bridge program, such as an RN-to-master's program, that allows them to become a nurse practitioner or move into administration.
  • Flexibility

    Nursing positions come in all shapes and sizes. Nurses may work shifts, part time, full time, and during school or business hours depending on the practice setting.
  • Specialization

    The number of nursing specialties in which a nurse may find employment continues to grow each year. Nurses are an integral part of healthcare. Additionally, it doesn't usually require a new degree to move from one specialty to another.

How Men Can Overcome the Stigma

To overcome the stigmas that still exist in healthcare, male nurses can focus on becoming great nurses. Showing compassion and understanding for their patients, while using strong evidence-based nursing skills, can go a long way toward dispelling misconceptions in your colleagues.

Male nurses can also take advantage of professional nursing organizations that work toward gender inclusivity in nursing and in large professional groups like the American Nurses Association. Specialty nursing organizations are another option.

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