Men in Nursing
Men in Nursing
It is only in the late nineteenth century that women entered various professions - Men in Nursing introduction. Until then they were restricted to household work and farming only. However, today women have been successful in establishing themselves in traditionally male dominated occupations, particularly since the 1970’s. On the other hand, it looks like men do not seem to be crossing over into traditional female dominated professions such as nursing. This paper mainly discusses the reasons behind only few men going into nursing. Currently there is a crisis in terms of a nursing shortage due to various reasons. One way to resolve this crisis is to encourage more men into nursing.
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If we look at the history, it can be pointed out that men have been a part of nursing for a long time. The first nursing school in the world was started in India in about 250 BC. Only men were considered “pure” enough to become nurses (Menstuff n.pag). According to Mackintosh men were an established part of nursing in the middle Ages, where they were often part of the monastic institutions. There is historical evidence that men were care takers in the voluntary hospitals and in the poor workhouses of early Victorian England (Mackintosh 232-236).
With the evolution of modern nursing, most of the men were out of the profession. The exclusion of men in the formative years of modern nursing especially from 1852 onwards established a pattern that has become profoundly entrenched in both nursing and the wider society (Mackintosh 232-236). For instance, in the UK, men were discouraged from entering nursing with the Nursing Registration Act of 1919 offering only women entry to the Register.
It was in the mid-nineteenth century when changes in the nature of masculinity and femininity occurred, spearheaded by Florence Nightingale, which resulted in nursing becoming feminized. Florence Nightingale promoted the idea that to be a ‘good nurse’ was also to be a ‘good woman’ (Gamarnikow). Klaus Theweleit explains this ideal vision of the female nurse as the ‘white nurse’, a pure ‘caring mother figure, who transcends sensuousness’ (Theweleit 91). Though Nightingale was a strong advocate for both women and nursing, she considered traits such as nurturance, gentleness, empathy, compassion, tenderness and unselfishness to be basically feminine. Naturally, today, this position has been gradually more challenged by those who argue that these qualities exist also in men, and might not essentially be found in all female nurses! (Wright and Hearn).There are also reports that say that Nightingale herself thought that men’s ‘hard and horny’ hands were not fitted ‘to touch, bathe, and dress wounded limbs, however gentle their hearts may be’ (Summers).
It was only when the modern day nursing especially in the post war period, that a subsequent review of nursing suggested that both men and women should be permitted entry to all parts of the register. As a result of this decision, in the period 1939-1947 there was a 542% increase in the number of men registering as nurses in the UK (Brown et al. 4-13). However, this increase was short-term and by the late 1960’s the number of men in nursing had fallen again.
Researchers such as Mackintosh points out, is probably due to three factors. The first reason was that the conviction in the natural nature of nursing as a woman’s occupation still existed that produced conflicting assumptions about men in nursing. The introduction of men in nursing was an attempt in some way to abuse the morality of the occupation, and that, because men were apparently not naturally capable of performing caring nursing activities, men in nursing could consequently not be ‘real men’ and certainly not ‘real nurses’. The second reason pointed out was the poor working conditions with long hours and low pay which was discouraging not only men but also women. Lastly, the failure to shake off the low reputation that men in nursing had acquired as a result of their long relationship with less respectable areas of nursing work such as custodial work in psychiatric hospitals predestined that even fewer men were fascinated to nursing (Mackintosh 232-236).
There are also other studies that suggest that in the early 1970’s particularly in the United Kingdom, men in nursing found that several hospitals indicated that they considered men in nursing to have only a limited role in general nursing. There was restriction on men and were not ready to accept men for training who did not show at least as strong a motivation as their women recruits (Brown and Stones). This could also be a contributing factor in the lack of men in nursing even up to the 1970’s.
If we take a look at men in nursing in the United States, it can be noted that men in nursing fared a little better where they were able to register as a nurse. But here again education was stringently segregated into different schools for men and women. In fact there were also some colleges preventing men from entering the profession until the 1980’s (Polifacio 39-42).
If we try to analyze why men enter nursing, it can be said that the reasons were almost the same as women (Villeneuve 217-228). Several researchers have also worked in this area (Squires 26-28; Boughn and Lentini 156-161; Perkins et al. 34-38). Nursing gives men the opportunity to make a difference in a person’s life thus gaining emotional rather than financial rewards (Mason 26-28).
By studying the opinions of male and female nursing students towards nursing as a career, it was found that male students were influenced by the availability of career opportunities and the nature of the clinical experience perceived through their nursing education. Results of this study indicated that nursing was attractive because of job opportunities, security, diversity, desire to help people and promotion (Lo and Brown 36-41).
According the Boughn a researcher, the three main reasons for taking up nursing profession by men and women were caring, power and empowerment, and practical motivation. He found that both men and women students had a similar commitment to caring for patients. However, the research found that there were some differences within the construct of power particularly in regard to empowering others. He found that women were more interested in empowering others while men were more interested in empowering the profession. The study also arrived at differences between men and women in regards to practical motivation. All male participants in the study indicated that they chose nursing because they expected a good salary and earning power and they saw nursing as a practical choice for achieving this end. However, among the females all but four of the 16 women students, did not quote financial considerations as being important to them. Finally, Boughn suggested that these differences should be seen not as completely opposed, but as complementing each other. He suggested that nursing education could encourage men and women to incorporate these different ways of thinking into the other’s professional values (Boughn 14-19).
One of the main barriers to men entering nursing is the challenge it presents to hegemonic masculinity in that men who choose nursing as a career, risk challenging the traditional roles of their gender stereotype. Additionally, there are also concerns of low economic status, less pay and importance given to male nursing. In general, nursing is recognized as a female profession and women’s roles continue to be less valued as reflected in social status and financial compensation. Indeed, Meadus sees one of the main barriers keeping men away from entering nursing is the “well-entrenched societal stereotypes associated with nursing” (Meadus 5-13).
In United States men were excluded from nursing in the military in the early 1900’s and did not resume this function until the early 1950’s, after the Korean War. However, this scenario is changing and throughout the world today, more and more men are entering the field of nursing. There is a major push to remove the stereotype that nurses are women (About.com).
One of the major challenges faced by the health care sector is the shortage of nursing staff. With this shortage of nurses, more men are encouraged to join the profession. Recent statistics show the average age of nurses rising while the rate of those entering the profession has slowed over the past few years. The reason for the nursing shortage includes the average age of nurses is 45 years, the image of the profession, work environment issues especially the high stress situations and the faculty shortage.
According to the American Nurses Association estimates only 6 percent of nurses in the United States today are men. While the demand is growing for quality nursing care, hospitals and other facilities face a significant shortage of nurses to meet that need. According to the American Hospital Association, 75 percent of all hospital vacancies are for nurses, and the Department of Labor has identified registered nursing as the top occupation in terms of job growth through 2012, with more than 1 million new and replacement nurses needed in that time.
Even though women have effectively broken into the ranks of medicine–the Association of American Medical Colleges reports that the majority of medical students are now female and nursing has yet to see a similar shift in the gender balance. Still, men are beginning a push to set their roles within this female-dominated occupation. As part of this “Men in Nursing,” is the first professional journal to target this population. This journal was recently launched by publisher Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. “Our whole intent with ‘Men in Nursing’ is to provide a professional journal that’s going to really serve as a vehicle to celebrate the accomplishments of men in the field,” said Robert Kepshire, the publication’s editor of the journal. Kepshire began his career as a firefighter and emergency medical technician before starting a 20-year nursing career that has included working on a helicopter to transport critically ill patients.
Some of the biggest obstacles to attracting more men to nursing are the persistent notion that nursing is simply not something that men do. As the word “nursing” itself is essentially feminine which also means breastfeeding a child. Male nurses often find that patients approach them with the assumption that they are not smart enough to become doctors. For some men, nursing symbolizes a secure career move. For instance, Scott Flaming worked for 15 years as an insurance underwriter for Fortune 500 companies before moving to El Paso, Texas, where he had difficulty finding a job. Later he decided to enroll at New Mexico State University to get a degree as a Registered Nurse.
Another challenge regardless of male or female to enter the field of nursing is getting into a nursing school. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, nursing schools had to reject more than 30,000 qualified applicants in the year 2004 because of capacity constraints. “Just because there aren’t enough training opportunities available, that doesn’t mean the ones that are there should continue to go to females only,” said Jim Raper, president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, an organization dedicated to supporting male nurses and encouraging more men to enter the field.
Those men who are already into the profession successfully may find that being in the minority has additional challenges. There are reports saying that some men have been held back in their careers as a result of gender discrimination. This is especially true in specialties like obstetrics and gynecology. In these departments women often prefer to have female nurses and courts have ruled that hospitals have the right to hire women over men because of their gender (LeMoult).
Approximately 5.4% of the 2.1 million R.N.s employed in nursing in the United States are men, according to the National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses conducted in March 1996 by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Today, things are a little different. Physicians have come to realize that nurses are much smarter than given credit for years ago. Nurses are now moving into higher management roles and are more educated than in the past.” (Chung).
Today, the existing nursing staff faces problems due to the shortage of staff. They have to work overtime and long hours. This not only put their personal life into trouble but also put the patients at serious risk. Patient safety is a top priority for all physicians, nurses and other health care workers (healthsmart). However, error is always a possibility, especially with medications and particularly with the nurses who have to work more than 12 hours on an average. Such kind of medication administration errors can threaten patient and are a dimension of patient safety which is directly linked to nursing care (Stratton, et al. 385-392).
Although nurses compose the largest single group of health care professionals, only a few studies have addressed the effect of long shifts on their performance. As study by Wagner and others said that there are three major reason for shortage of nurses this include shortage of hospital nurses, faculty shortage, and a shortage of highly- trained nurses. In addition, issues such as job burnout and dissatisfaction with the current working nurses also add to these problems (Wagner et al.). If more and more men are encouraged to enter the field of nursing such problems of shortages and stress on existing staff would reduce tremendously.
Today, with the increasing pressure on the nursing staff, it is estimated that first-year retention rates for new graduate nurses is only between 40% and 65%. In terms of numbers as many as 6 out of 10 new nursing grads leave nursing practice within one year of graduation (Rosebrough). And studies have indicated that one of the main reasons for them to leave the profession is the workplace violence they experience particularly in the initial years of their practice. It is important that in order to make a real difference in the nursing field, stringent laws need to be enforced.
As nursing career offers an exceptional combination of job security and excitement, there are also plenty of opportunities for career advancement. For instance this profession gives opportunity from high-paying nurse executive and nurse practitioner positions to high-status research positions as nurse scientists. Additionally, nursing careers especially in the military provide opportunities to perform heroic efforts on the battlefield. Incidences such as the 9/11 attacks call for more and more influx into this prestigious profession of nursing.
Today, it is important to overcome the persistent—and outdated—stereotypes of nursing as a strictly female profession. The nursing profession is working hard to dispel these old misconceptions and make up for lost time. Today nursing school faculty and male nursing leaders are developing innovative, stereotype-busting recruitment strategies in the hopes of ultimately making the number of men in nursing more comparable to the number of women.
Finally, it can be said that the modern day society need more men and more people from varied ethnic and cultural backgrounds in nursing because the patients and the number of people requiring their service is growing. While physicians take care of a patient’s physical well being, nurses play important roles of consolers, comforters and counselors. Patients are more comfortable to share their true feelings with a nurse than their physicians. As a nurse provides care to patients, nurses are perhaps the best friend of a patient. In general, what nurses actually bring about is an ability to help identify the health care needs of the patients and families in communities.
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