A Survival Guide for Male Nurses. Really.

Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , July 9, 2013

For example, the book's lead author, Christopher Lance Coleman, PhD, MS, MPH, FAAN, wrote about how disappointed his father was in his choice to become a nurse.

"My family perceived nursing as a woman's profession," he wrote. "My parents worried that a man choosing nursing would face obstacles such as stigma, limited opportunities, and low pay… the word 'bedpan' kept creeping into conversations."

Just think about what that implies: That changing bedpans—i.e., real, hands-on, down-and-dirty caregiving—is a woman's domain. Such prejudices and stereotypes are not only potentially harmful to male nurses, but to female nurses and to the nursing profession. The belief that men are too masculine for nursing implies that nursing itself is weak.

The book also made me more aware of the gendered language that so often accompanies nursing. Coleman writes that in textbooks, classrooms, and conferences "she" is always the pronoun of choice when describing nurses.

I'm guilty of this, too, something that a reader of this column recently pointed out to me in an email. She wrote to complain about the headline and gendered language in the article, "When Mean Girls Wear Scrubs."

"A full 20% of my nursing staff is male," wrote Lynne Beattie, RN, MSN, Interim Manager Telemetry at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California. "As sensitive as I was to being left out of the usual "he" and "him" communication in the late 70's, I'm equally sensitive today to articles [and] discussions that imply all nurses are female."

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4 comments on "A Survival Guide for Male Nurses. Really."

CWR013 (7/12/2013 at 10:50 AM)
Have been a RN for nearly 30 years and yes there are many hurdles and prejudices male RNs face. As for the reported pay inequity, I would argue males are more likely to negotiate for a higher salary than their female counterparts. There certainly is a female bias faced by their male counterpartsd. For example, I can always tell when females were heavily involved with thing such as orientation, workshops, and the like. There is a lot of "touchy/feely" things that cater more toward a female perspective. I am NOT suggesting this is wrong or inferior in any way. It is simply different. Men and woman relate to one another differently; women relate face to face (talking/sharing feeling) whereas men relate side by side (working/playing together). Additionally, hospitals host events that are more oriented toward females ie; jewelry or shoe sales are examples. When was the last time a hospital hosted a fishing or hunting sale? Just sayin'.....:-)

Christopher Martorella, MSN, RN, NEA-BC (7/10/2013 at 9:58 PM)
When I served as Director of Nursing at Shands at the University of Florida, I did a small study of men in nursing and found very similar results. Male nurses also find themselves in situations where they are asked to disproportionately assist with lifting and turning. Male nurses also are concerned that they receive more difficult assignments at times because of gender. The authors point about the gender language is a good one. Even "nursing" is a female term. The male nurses in my focus groups even suggested that we should search for another descriptor that is not a feminine-laden turn. These issues are not universal and they can certainly be overcome. I encourage all nurses to continue the dialogue on this and other diversity issues in nursing so we can continue to grow and assure that nursing is a viable career choice no matter what walk of life a potential candidate might come from.

Phyllis Kritek, RN, PhD (7/10/2013 at 1:41 PM)
Thanks for shining a light on this issue and for highlighting Christopher Coleman's invaluable resource that might help shift our collective dialog and understanding of all forms of gender bias and the harm they inflict on others.




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