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While the majority of nurses are women, the number of nurses who are men is growing fast. Over the last 10 years, the male nurses grew by 59%. We spoke to Sam Ohemeng, a male nurse for almost 10 years, about his career across many nursing disciplines, including ER, acute, and long-term care.
Learn even more about nursing as a career for men, the differences between nurses of binary genders, and the experiences of male nurses today.
Q&A With Sam Ohemeng, RN
Sam has worked as a registered nurse (RN) for more than nine years. He's held positions as a float RN in rural Alberta, Canada, working in ER, acute care, and long-term care. He has also worked as an occupational health nurse for various industrial companies. He's been working in corrections for the past two years.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us about your career as a nurse.
I graduated about nine years ago. I got recruited to work in a rural hospital in Alberta. In that area, you get to do a lot of things because with rural comes a lot of [back-to-back shifts — the majority of your experiences. There was acute care, long-term care, which is more for geriatrics, and then there was also an emergency department. The position that I got was to be trained through all three of them and be a versatile player to actually be able to go wherever I'm needed.
In the beginning, I was a little bit nervous as a new grad, but later on, I became very comfortable and adjusted because I had a lot of people that were very, very helpful.
As a float nurse, I would show up during the day, and I could either be on a key care floor to help out during the morning rounds and then get called to emergency because somebody's short and then I would go help. I did this for quite a long time.
After, I got into occupational nursing, which is a type of nursing where you do an assessment on an individual based on the company they work for. For example, companies may have a policy for ear audiometric testing, especially when employees are exposed to a certain amount of noise or a policy to test respiratory health if they're exposed to chemicals.
Now, I'm working towards my nurse practitioner master's to be able to do a little bit more of primary care.
In any of those settings, were you treated differently because you were a man in what is currently a field dominated by women?
Yes. I was more conscious of that title at the beginning. But there were a lot more geriatric patients that were still confused because they were still sort of old school. When I would tell them I'm a nurse, they would just call me "doctor nurse". Some patients wouldn't want a male nurse to help them with their morning routine. That was somewhat of a challenge because I would be assigned to a floor.
In an emergency, not so much, because in an emergency, people come in when they need you. They don't have a choice. But they would still automatically assume I was a doctor. So then I have to mostly reassure them that I'm not and the doctor will be there and stuff like that.
When someone comes with chest pain we want to be able to put an ECG lead on their chest. If they were a woman or a girl, I would ask a female nurse to help them. It makes them more comfortable, more relaxed so that you can actually do a proper assessment instead of them being more tense.
Has your approach changed for some of those situations as you've gained experience, or is it still, 'If it makes the patient more comfortable, I'll go find a woman nurse'?
If I'm dealing with a physical assessment that requires more detail or hands-on in terms of a certain area, I'll ask a female nurse to assist. In an emergency situation, you obviously have to do what you need to save the person's life. But for the most part, I'm usually not by myself. And usually, that's how it's supposed to be. If you're in a room with a patient, where it involves a lot more hands-on, you should technically have a female nurse or helper so that the patient is comfortable.
So for the most part, my approach has definitely changed based on what I know. I can get somebody else to stand in there with me. I'm going and introduce myself, tell them what's going on, what's supposed to happen, that I'm a male nurse. They have a right to refuse, and they have a right to call somebody else.
Are there any areas of nursing that you find easier and less challenging because you're a man?
Yes, I always volunteer to do the heavy lifting, giving other nurses a hand with heavy stuff. In the mornings, we have to do patient care, and some of the patients can be heavy. We do have lift machines, but for the most part, I let them know that they can count on me.
But, sometimes we actually have an aggressive patient who is a male. And I think that's probably the most important one when I usually when go in to talk to the patient. I think some patients take advantage of the emotional aspect of the nurses so they probably think they can say whatever. But I would take over that assignment so they wouldn't get emotionally drained by the patient being verbally abusive.
What advice would you give men interested in nursing?
I'd probably tell them not to take everything personally, especially what comes from the patients. Patients can have different fluctuations of emotions…they can be upset at you even though it's not you.
Also, cherish every moment because I've seen babies born and their progress is such an amazing feeling. I've seen when people come to the emergency very, very sick and almost coded, which is on the verge of dying, to the point that they are walking out of there.
“In an emergency, people come in when they need you. They don't have a choice.”
— Sam Ohemeng, RN
How Career Preferences Differ Between Men and Women Nurses
While nurses who are women and men have similar job responsibilities, they can have very different experiences in nursing based on career paths. For example, the highest representation of men in nursing is in anesthesia, where they make up 41% of the total specialty, according to a survey.
Ohemeng says he helps out more in tasks that require heavy lifting and responds to patients who are becoming aggressive. This highlights a significant difference between women and men in nursing: nurses who are men are more likely to be physically attacked, while nurses who are women are more likely to be verbally attacked.
Women nurses are more likely than men nurses to work in fields related to children and female reproductive health. A review of the literature found that male nurses are concerned about the fear of physical touch being misinterpreted and that more men are drawn to “high-tech, low-touch” specialties.
Men in nursing are underrepresented among those treating women and children, such as in school, pediatrics, neonatal, obstetrics, and labor and delivery nursing. However, they are also underrepresented in oncology nursing. Men make up less than 3% of all nurses in these specialties.
Male nurses make up 12% of RNs, 11% of LPNs, and 11% of nurse practitioners. However, more men are entering the field. For example, the number of male advanced practice RNs grew from 9,400 to more than 29,700 between 2011 and 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
How Much Do Men Make as Nurses?
The median salary for male nurses is $89,000, compared to $76,000 for female nurses, according to the 2022 Nursing Workforce Survey.
Despite making up the majority of the nursing field, female nurses earn less than male nurses. While many factors contribute to the gender salary gap in nursing, research shows that men are more likely to negotiate salaries and ask for raises.
Page last reviewed August 8, 2023
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