The Number of Male Nurses Has Multiplied 10x in the Past 40 Years

By Rob Toledo



The nursing industry has changed significantly over the last 40 years, with substantial developments in how nurses use technology to interact with patients and manage a large percent of the patient relationship. Another notable shift has been the growing number of male nurses joining the ranks in this healthcare profession.

Looking through data from 1977 to the present day available through the Health Resources and Services Administration's Nursing Workforce Survey, we found several interesting trends. with metrics available from 1977 to the present day.


Fast Facts

  • The total number of nurses in the United States and surrounding territories jumped from 1.4 million in 1977 to just under 3.3 million in 2018.
  • The number of female nurses grew from 1.39 million nurses to 2.9 million over the same timeframe.
  • The number of male nurses increased exponentially over the past 40 years, from 27,000 in 1977 to 310,000 in 2018.
  • Our analysis suggests that there will be an even sharper spike in the percentage of men joining the nursing workforce in the coming decade.

Nursing Workforce Trends Over 40 Years

  Number of Nurses Female % of Total Male % of Total
1977 1,417,665 1,390,004 98.05% 27,254 1.92%
1988 2,049,213 1,972,672 96.26% 68,249 3.33%
1996 2,558,874 243,9245 95.32% 125,120 4.89%
2008 3,063,163 2,848,000 92.98% 214,421 7.00%
2018 3,272,872 2,912,000 88.97% 314,195 9.60%

Such a drastic shift in demographic data most likely reflects a growing interest from men who want to become nurses, along with a decrease in negative stereotypes about men in this role. While these stereotypes may still linger, sentiment toward male nurses will most likely continue to shift positively in the coming decade.

There has also been a notable increase in the number of men applying for nursing school. The prevalence of professional opportunities and strong job security appear to be leading factors in this increase.

This increase in male applicants indicates that the number of male nurses joining the workforce will continue to rise over the next decade. It seems possible that within the next ten years, we will see another 10-15% jump in the relative percentage of male nurses, with the curve starting to bend sharply upward.