Most people would agree that nursing is viewed as a predominately female profession. But this has not been the case historically. If you look back at the history of nursing, you will find that men dominated the field early on. We then started to enter periods, often marked by war, where women became the main source of nurses. Sources such as Men in Nursing and Most Famous Male Nurses in History, provide detailed accounts of the roles that men have played throughout history.
Having been in nursing myself for almost 30 years, I have noticed a renewed presence of men, both at the bedside and also in the classes I have taught. I decided to ask some of my work peers and students what made them choose nursing as a career, what specialties they were drawn to, and whether they were satisfied with the choices they had made.
While this has admittedly been a small sample of men in nursing, it nonetheless gives me a glimpse into how and why men make the choice to pursue a career in nursing. It also gives me some insight into what activities and patient types are most appealing. This, in turn, might help managers, teachers, recruiters and coworkers who want to encourage men in the profession.
The first male nurse I spoke with has been in the profession for five years. He was drawn to the profession by family role models. His mother, sister, grandmother and other relatives were all nurses. He saw the value in helping others and had seen many women in his family do this through nursing. It was a natural choice for him. Pediatrics was what he wanted to do. Now, living in a smaller community, there are few options for this. However, he has found that nursing still offers a variety of options, and for that he is grateful.
Another one of my co-workers, Andy, said that he chose nursing after making several previous poor life choices. He had given serious thought to medical school, but the time and money just weren’t there, and nursing still gave him access to the health care career he wanted. The level of skill and the acuity offered in ICU drew his attention. Again, being in a smaller community did not provide him with the level of service he had hoped for, but the lifestyle was what he wanted. And, as with my other coworker, Chip, even a small facility offered a variety of choices from which to choose.
A student of mine, JJ, continued with his nursing education even though he was offered a lucrative position as a sales rep for surgical supplies. He was eager to accept the job he was offered, but he felt that he would be foolish to not complete his RN degree and have that as his insurance policy if he should someday want to change jobs. He also felt the nursing degree gave his current job more credibility, as well as credibility with the nurses he interacts with.
Variety: The Spice of Nursing
As I spoke with a dozen or so male nurses I have worked with or taught, I found one repeating theme. Variety. Whether they were working in the area they had originally planned on, or working in a department that had presented itself because of geography, institutional limitations, family responsibility or unpredictable opportunity each agreed that the flexible nature of the nursing occupation had served them well. They always felt that a nursing job was available to them, and that a challenge was present if they would just look for it.
We all struggle with job frustrations at times, but the men I have had the pleasure to encounter in the nursing profession, in growing numbers, all seem to agree that the job security and the variety of work options have made their choice of becoming RNs a positive one.
What about you? Why did you become a nurse?