When Will Male Nurses Just Be Called Nurses?


Without a care of being “politically correct,” the character played by Robert De Niro in the hilarious movie Meet the Parents, openly questions his daughter’s boyfriend — Gaylord Focker — about his choice of a career. The boyfriend is a nurse; or as they are commonly referred to: a male nurse.

Granted, it is a career overwhelmingly chosen by women, yet men enter this field for the same reasons as their female counterparts. They care about the healing process, they have the initiative and desire to serve in this capacity and they bring their own unique personality and skills to the table. Despite this, they are still way behind women in terms of numbers in the field.

According to an article published in 2013 on the CBS website, the number of male nurses in the U.S. has tripled since the 1970s. According to the article: the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 2.7 percent of all nurses in the 1970s were male. A study conducted in 2011 showed that number has grown to 9.6 percent (measuring employed nurses in the U.S.). Other stats now have the male percentage into double digits.

While the numbers have grown, there are a few rather baffling observations that can be made or pondered:

  • Why there is a need to say “male” nurse? It’s not as if nurses wear disguises where you cannot distinguish gender. Where does this come from? Do nurses who are men tell people they are a male nurse? If so, are they concerned people will think they failed at being a female nurse? Of course, this is a joke! How long will it be until that term is passé? Is it already?
  • According to the 2011 census, on average, male nurses earn nearly 20 percent more than their female counterparts. So, it appears, financial gender inequality reaches across all borders and fields. What makes this fact the most disturbing in terms of wages for women is that the overwhelming majority of those deciding on nursing salaries are … women!
  • Women show caring more than men, so they make better nurses. This is really interesting. Most religious clergy are men, and they are expected to help people achieve spiritual healing and connection with the creative force. Yet, when speaking of physical healing, those abilities are given short-shrift or negated all together. We all know that a great nurse needs to have smarts and wisdom, the ability to connect with a patient and keep the motor of healing humming. None of those are gender specific.
  • Why are there more women in nursing? Blame Florence Nightingale. This leader of care revolutionized nursing and, through no fault of her own, created an image of the perfect nurse as a woman. Many nursing schools for years would only accept women, helping to define it as a female profession.
  • Nurses who are men are often confused by patients as being doctors. This has to be rather funny for nurses who are male and an eye-rolling experience for female RNs. What is the saying? It is what it is. Only time will change these stereotypes. That and bigger name and title badges, perhaps.

The bottom line is that, while the genders have their differences, they all bring valuable skill sets to the table of healing. We’ll know we’ve reached acceptance by all when RNs are referred to as nurses. Either that, or we’ll have the entrée of a new term: Female nurse … just to balance it out.

What is your take on the whole “male” nurse issue? Chime in with your thoughts by commenting below. Did you enjoy this blog? Share it!

Author: Admin

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