Men in Nursing: The Challenges in Caregiving

The idea of a male caregiver has been a strange concept for as long as humans have been around. After all, men are the hunters, the providers, and women are the nurturers, right? Evolutionarily this may be the case, but as we as a species evolve even further, we no longer need to rely on biological relics of thousands of years ago. Instead, as an advanced species, we have the luxury of making our own proper decisions that are best for us, our lives, and the people we care about, regardless of what our DNA might say.

It hasn’t been until recent years that it’s become more acceptable for men to work in fields that were technically designated for women. Teachers, stay-at-home-parenthood, and yes, even nurses are now seeing more and more men entering the field. But with the freedom to choose whatever roles suit them the most, men are facing a lot of challenges, especially in the role of caregiving. Here are a few of the biggest challenges men face in nursing.

Prejudice in the Workplace

In a female-dominated field like nursing, most everything is directed to women. From emails to all the nurses addressed to “ladies” to signage portraying only female nurses, men are often overlooked at work. While none of this is life-threatening, of course, it can still affect male nurses in negative ways. If they see themselves as being treated poorly or forgotten, they might quickly lose motivation to keep doing their job well.

They’re Seen as Untrustworthy

Without a doubt, male nurses receive more negative responses for doing their job than female nurses do. Men in caregiver roles are often seen as having ulterior motives based on some sense of perversion. For some reason, it is still unfathomable to many people that a “big strong man” may want to enter a nurturing profession, and they may see him as a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Female patients especially find it difficult to trust male nurses. With many women having had negative experiences with men over the course of their lifetimes, it can be a challenge to allow a man, even in a professional setting, to touch them, treat them, or go over personal health details with them. Likewise, male patients often balk at being treated by another man, especially where physical touching may be involved.

They’re Not “Supposed” to Be Compassionate

Compassion and empathy are requirements for a great nurse. They are traits that well-rounded, open people possess outside of nursing, too. The problem is that they are seen as feminine traits. From “boys don’t cry” to “man up,” men are taught from a young age that feelings shouldn’t be had or revealed. This does a big disservice to many men who do embody that compassionate nature that is so sought after in the nursing world.

Because so many people hold that mentality, it’s difficult for many male nurses to do their work properly. Being constantly looked down on for being a man in a “woman’s” role can hurt the ego and impede progress on the part of the nurse. Not to mention, many patients may prefer female nurses instead of male ones because they are perceived to be more compassionate. Thus, many male nurses can lose rapport with patients who might see them as less empathetic.

While we know that this isn’t true, men are still facing this myth each day, even though compassion and empathy are not feminine traits, but human ones.

Male Nurses are Unwelcome in Certain Specialties

There are different specialties where men are even less welcome than in others. Labor and delivery, gynecology, even pediatrics are certain departments where most patients may be more comfortable with female nurses. This is most likely because most patients, or parents bringing child patients to the facility, are female. And as we pointed out before, many female patients simply feel less at ease with male nurses.

Especially in gynecology and labor/delivery, where there is often intimate care involved, women may assume that a male nurse is simply in that department for some kind of perverted motive. Many female patients assume that a male nurse cannot provide this type of necessary care without the situation becoming sexual in nature. With female nurses, there is not so much concern.

Male Nurses “Should” Be Doctors

Finally, many male nurses are looked down on because they are nurses and not doctors. For some reason, despite there being both female and male doctors and nurses, it is often presumed that a woman is satisfied with being “just” a nurse, while men should aim for a “higher” goal of being a doctor.

As a nurse you know that becoming a nurse is not a step to becoming a doctor, so there’s no reason to assume any nurses simply stopped progressing. Becoming a nurse is a worthy goal in and of itself, for both men and women, and has nothing to do with becoming a doctor. Unfortunately, many men in nursing experience condescension for not having higher goals or motivation to be a doctor.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, being a male nurse is a challenging position. They are often looked down upon by others, discriminated against, and judged. However, the truth is also apparent: there is a growing need for men in nursing. With growing needs for representation in the workplace, you should consider becoming a male nurse if you have a knack for nurturing and want to help people in an important way.

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