Male Nurse

Men in Nursing: A Change in the Growth Trend?

Over the past few decades, the percentage of men in the nursing workforce has definitely been on the rise. However, there has been a recent lag in the momentum.

According to a data spotlight posted by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) in April 2023, using data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of employed male nurses increased from 2019 to 2021. However, the growth was followed by a slight decrease in 2022.

“While there has been a consistent upward trend over the last 20 years in the percentage of males in nursing, this representation has stalled at around 12% to 13% for the most recent three years,” the AACN reported.

Despite the lag, the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) is encouraged by the overall growth in the numbers of men in nursing over the past two decades.

“The collective efforts of professional nursing organizations such as AAMN, educators and nursing leadership to diversify the nursing workforce is working,” said Curry Bordelon, DNP, MBA, NNP-BC, CPNP-AC, CNE, vice president for AAMN.

Factors influencing men entering the nursing workforce

What has been driving the general growth of men in the nursing workforce? Experts cite a variety of factors. Some men are drawn to the profession by a desire to help people, while others like the challenges inherent in a nursing career, as well as the opportunities for specialization.

Raymond Brown-Riley, BSN, RNC-NIC, NPT, NNIC, was inspired to pursue a career in nursing by the example that his own mother had set.

“She had been a nurse working at the bedside for nearly 30 years when I graduated, and she has gotten to impact thousands of lives,” said Brown-Riley, who now works as an NICU nurse and an advocate for Operation Happy Nurse, a non-profit community created to help nurses battle work-related stress, anxiety and depression. “It felt like a great way to help people, and I was definitely right.”

Meanwhile, Nicholas Carte, PhD, APRN, AGNP-C, CPPS, PSQ, was attracted to the opportunities for lifelong learning and stability. He started in critical care, then pursued graduate studies and became a nurse practitioner. Today, he is a faculty lead for the graduate nursing program at Southern New Hampshire University.

“I truly enjoy combining my clinical practice with educating graduate nursing students,” he said.

Increasing diversity in healthcare

According to Bordelon, men are essential to diversifying the nursing workforce.

“The nursing workforce should reflect the patient population of which they serve,” Bordelon said. “Evidence indicates that diversity of gender in any profession fosters a more inclusive work environment and allows for a broader range of perspectives and experiences. Male patients and caregivers may ‘bond’ with or connect with a male nurse more than others. Male nurses can enhance patient care and contribute to a well-rounded healthcare team by providing different communication styles, problem-solving approaches and emotional support techniques.”

Added Brown-Riley, “I think normalizing men entering the nursing industry is necessary for the future of our healthcare system.”

Changing gender perceptions

A generation ago, when fewer men were working in the nursing profession, some stereotypes about nurses persisted. Nursing was considered a “woman’s job.” Some questioned if men had the nurturing ability to even do the job.

A few patients may still be surprised today when a male nurse takes care of them, but fortunately, that’s changing. The outdated misconceptions are decreasing.

“The image of a male nurse has changed and is considered by many as a fulfilling and sustainable career,” said Bordelon.

One way to keep that momentum going: reconsider the language used to refer to men in nursing.

“I do feel that we, as a society, need to stop referring to men as ‘male nurses,’” Carte said. “A nurse is a nurse. Gender shouldn’t play a role in any conversation and only fuels the stigma that keeps some men from even considering nursing as a potential career path.”

Creating a supportive environment for men in nursing

What can be done to encourage more men to enter nursing and to create a more supportive environment for men in the nursing profession? Being intentional may be the key.

Bordelon suggested that healthcare organizations implement diversity strategies to attract and retain more men in the nursing profession. He offers AAMN as a resource that can help them educate healthcare professionals and administrators about biases and encourage them to promote a culture of inclusivity.

Hospitals can also sharpen their focus on caring for their entire nursing workforce, said Brown-Riley. Nursing has grown in scope and complexity over the years, and nurses play a vital role in caring for patients that should not be underplayed.

“That means paying well, managing well, and supporting well. If nurses aren’t taken care of, they will leave. We can work anywhere,” he added.

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