Historical Perspectives of Male Nursing

Rachelle Neighbarger

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Predominantly, nursing has always been considered as female dominated profession guided by extreme stereotypical perceptions of sexuality. Generally, the nursing profession is marred by wide apparitions of gender imbalance on the perception that nursing has its foundation in the prospects of Florence Nightingale thereby ever since it is often defined as a marginalized profession most suitable and deserving for women. The public at large has the preset perception that men who settle for nursing as their profession do so simply because they were rejected into a medical school and for self actualization purposes. Many at times those men who settle on nursing as their career choice often do so simply because they failed in a particular field and many at times they usually end up quitting their jobs the first few years. This is simply because men in the nursing industry experience a great deal of discrimination and professional barriers that generally inhibit their full specialty that pushes them to hold onto such a job for long. However, this stereotypical perception does not help in the push for more number of nurses be it male or female who simply get into the profession for purposes of caring for individuals who are ill or need close medical attention on a round the clock basis.

Historical Perspective of Male Nursing

In the long run, the stereotypical perceptions lead to male nurses being discriminated against where there full working rights are denied on the basis of socially constricted gender roles. Take for instance, situations in the nursing profession where male nurses cannot be promoted to leadership role on the basis of their gender, with regards to varied forms of nursing training which leads to their exclusion in practicing in fields like gynecology or obstetrics. Perhaps it is simply because of their lack of will to practice in these fields or poor networking or rather the basic underlying problem-gender discrimination. The numbers of men enrolling in nursing educational programs is minimal, a majority of those enrolling are the female counterparts; perhaps this trend is conceptualized by the fact that the nursing profession is perceived with a feminine touch to caring (Paterson & Saydack, 1996). This paper thus seeks to examine how the man has adapted to the nursing profession, the historical background of male nursing, the advantages and disadvantages of practicing as a male nurse, infer on the impact of men turning to nursing as a profession and finally juxtapose all the aforementioned details with a slight touch of personal perception of men in the nursing industry. Underpinned in this paper’s discussion of male nursing is a clear cut inference of discrimination in the nursing profession that is guided by gender-based stereotypical connection.

Historical Background

In the 20th Century specifically during Florence Nightingale’s time, nursing was considered a woman-only occupation were men were strongly vilified and perceived as being incapable of offering any caring services simply because of they had ‘horny’ hands that were considered unfavorable to care offer thus prompting their exclusion from the profession of nursing (Kippenbrock, 2010). Furthermore, males are considered to lack empathy as opposed to their female counterparts who are considered to have varied ways of expressing their feelings thereby easily getting in touch with their patients more easily. In actual sense, there exists documentation that men played the roles of nurses in Egypt dating back to 250 B.C.E; Nightingale professionalizing nursing is what has created the existing dispersed discrepancy where it is mostly defined as a woman profession while on the other hand being greatly marginalized to men. The existence of a marginalized profession has thus pushed our education system where a majority of those allowed to enroll into school are female and even if a man gets to successfully finish his nursing education, it is a daunting task for them to practice comfortably in the nursing profession simply because of their gender makes them to be discriminated against. On a broader perspective, even if a man successfully gets to be enrolled into a satisfying nursing profession there still exists numerous prohibitions that inhibit their career progress simply because they are channeled into departments that do not help them grow personally.

Take for instance the case of the Canadian Forces or rather the avert United States Army which up until 1967 did not give authority for men to sign up into their systems for nursing. Irrespective of the fact that there was constant development in the nursing profession allowing men to practice, legally by 1970 male nurses were still being barred from making rotations in some sections of hospitals. Analysis of literature related to nursing demonstrates that only a minimal number of men practice nursing, a trend that is fuelled by the larger prospect of women and men nursing registries being separated from each other thus closing out some nursing privileges like further education to the male nurses who have the will power to grow in the profession just like their female counterparts. Patients are also not to be left out in the historical description of the nursing profession as being inclined towards the men; most patients have always considered their nurses to being female, a survey carried out by Bernard Nodes Group demonstrates that a majority of patients irrespective of their age and gender preferred to be attended to by female nurses as opposed to the males whom they found really awkward offering care services to them.

Pros and Con of Men Practicing as Nurses

Reflections on the introduction and the historical background of male nursing, it is evident that this is a profession muddled with great gender-related discrimination that is inclined to have a feminist touch. With the aforementioned details in mind and after scouring through various peer reviewed articles on male nursing, it was deductible that the cons outweigh the cons when it comes to men taking the turn of choosing nursing as a preferable profession for them. Important to note above all is the fact that when pushed by personal will to go after something, one is usually self-driven into attaining their set goals irrespective of what the general public thinks of their choice; similarly as a man when one is willing to pursue nursing as a career, nothing stops them. Firstly, the nursing profession though gradually evolving has always been guided by the traditional Victorian family ideology where the role of men is to be ‘doctors’ considered as heads of organizations, the women taking up a latter role of being the handmaiden which is in most cases defined as the nursing role and finally the patient role is played by children who need to be taken care of by doctors and handmaidens. It thus became a tradition that the role of being a nurse was strictly meant for women which in the long run has pushed men away from enrolling into nursing schools. Irrespective of the fact that this model is no longer practiced in the nursing profession, a great deal of nurses is guided by its tenets as evident by the dominance of women in this profession.

The fact that there exists extensive barriers in the way of men enrolling into the nursing profession; men usually exhibit varied difficulties before they turn out as clinical nursing professionals. Society’s perception of nursing as a female profession exerts extreme pressure on men who sign up to be nurses; they are expected to perform way better in comparison to their female counterparts. Another issue that is a disadvantage for males enrolling for nursing from an educational setting to a hospital setting, males is generally outnumbered. To an extent it pushes them to a higher level of scrutiny and the education curriculum is inclined to only suit female students. The fact that they are male also in many circumstances dictates that they be given heavy tasks, in other situations, they could also miss out on educational opportunities like scholarships for nurses which in many circumstances are usually meant for female students. Though it is rarely experienced, male nurses are often ridiculed on the basis of their gender and it is an issue that keeps many from pursuing a nursing career; men are scared of being ridiculed for signing up for a female dominated profession. The general public looks down upon men who are nurses which in the long run push the men nurses to be stigmatized and perform their duties with extreme anxiety and in some cases it becomes stressful for them.

On the offset, a flip on the other side of the coin demonstrates that men who turn to nursing as their preferred profession have an upper hand when handling medical cases. Patients prefer being handled by a male nurse as they consider they are confident in handling critical situations in which the female counterparts in some instances cannot be handle comfortably (Thetis & Roberts, 2008). Men enrolling in nursing school also demonstrate a drive by men to help curb the nationwide shortage of nurses which with regards to World Health Organization data that suggests there has been a drop in nurses between the year 2000 and 2001 (Burth, 2005). Men filling up the deteriorating gap are ideal way which is not only beneficial to governments but also has great salary packages that a great deal of people are willing and greatly looking forward to earning such paychecks. The misguided notion that nursing is meant for women should not deter any male from pursuing their dream of being professional nurses; it should be a stepping stone towards the path of offering care services to the medically ill and needy so that the basic prospect of nursing is attained and generally achieved in the long run. Provision of intimate care for male patients has always been a problem for female nurses, men enrolling as nurses helps cater for such an issue in the medical industry.

Personal Statement on Male Nursing

Making the decision of becoming a male nurse comes with a great deal of responsibility and the need to be prepared for varied proponents considering that it is a female dominated field. In actual sense, gender is not in any way beneficial to anybody with regards to turn towards offering medical services to patients. Furthermore, women in a working environment tend to be more open to their male counterparts as opposed to their fellow women thereby creating a conducive environment for working where all and sundry can share their experiences thus establishing a working environment where nurses have a broader sense of belonging. With the extensive strides being made in nursing that is aimed to changing the public’s perception of nursing as a female profession, more and more men are continuously turning to be great nurses though in minimal numbers but the change is eminent. Although the nursing fraternity has opened its arms wide open for men, some aspect of the nursing profession are still hostile to male nurses; take an example of a situation involving a mother-baby rotation, the patient in this case-a woman will not be willing for a male nurse attend she will strongly prefer that all her care needs be handled by a female nurse. That aside, the general population of patients has received male nurses attending to them with a warm heart though in the beginning the reception of being attended to by a male nurse is usually a surprised one but later they get warmed up to the general idea. The most important thing when dealing with discrimination against male nurses is attending to the foundational problem of men not being willing enough to sign up for , finding ways of changing this perception by the men themselves is the first step towards transitioning nursing from a female dominated field to one which is accommodative to people of both sexes.

Impact of Male Nursing on the Nursing Profession

Men play an instrumental role in service provision in the nursing environment with a unique combination of skill set, a fact that has prompted the need for governments to turn into a rigorous exercise of recruiting and accepting men into the nursing profession which retrospectively caters for the problem of a deteriorating workforce. Men turning to nursing as a profession of choice, is good news for the looming nursing scarcity which has been experienced lately; men joining the equation is the most ideal and probable way by which this shortage can be catered for. Demographics relating to nurse numbers have been changing over the years with the acceptance of more men towards the profession: in the late 20th Century male nurse numbers was estimated at around 45,060 but by spin of over two decades down the line the number of male nurses has gradually developed to levels of 568,185 male nurses in the United States (Barkley, 2010). Great steps are being made by nursing organizations that have pushed for recruitment initiatives mainly targeted towards pushing more men to enroll into nursing schools and now currently scholarships targeted to male students are being offered. Consequently, personal appeals are being made to students in an effort to turn their misperception as a career meant only for women. Important in the whole transitioning process from a female dominated profession to a multifaceted one is the fact that the healthcare industry is offering comparatively high wages for nurses coupled up with the ideal of stable employment opportunities.


Barkley, K. (2010). U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration . Retrieved 2015 13-January from The Registered Nurse Population: Initial Findings from the 2008 National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses: ,http://bhpr.hrsa.gov/healthworkforce/rnsurveys/rnsurveyinitial2008.pdf.

Burth, A. (2005). Gender bias and discrimination in nursing education. Can we change it? Nurse Educator , 64-65.

Kippenbrock, S. (2010). School of nursing variables related to male student college choice. Journal of Nursing Education , 118-121.

Paterson, T., & Saydack, C. (1996). Learning to care: Gender issues for male nursing students. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research , 25-39.

Thetis, M. G., & Roberts, J. I. (2008). Nursing, Physician Control and Monopoly. Indianapolis: Indiana Univeristy Press.