Do Men Become Women’s Health Nurse Practitioners?
Male women's health nurse practitioners can face challenges in the healthcare setting. First, they enter a career in nursing which is predominantly female. Choosing a specialty career track in women's health can add additional challenges as the patient population is female.
The number of males in nursing has tripled since 1970 and continues to rise today. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that in 2011, 9% of all nurses were men compared to 2.7% in 1970. Specific areas of nursing have a higher number of males; for example, nurse anesthetists are 41% male. Read more about men in nursing.
Women's Health NPs focus on the care of women throughout the lifespan. They perform well-woman exams, screen and test for female-related cancers, manage reproductive health, educate and prescribe contraceptives, as well as many more duties. While many men pursue their advanced-practice degree to be able to diagnose and treat as well as act as a primary care provider, many are also interested in the field of women's health and pregnancy/ childbirth. Like any area of healthcare and nursing, it is calling for men as well as women providers.
One challenge that men may face is from old-school providers who were practicing when males typically did not work as nurses. The issue is not necessarily that the field of study is women's health, as there were (and still are) many male OBGYNs, but that male historically did not become nurses. Luckily, the rate of males entering the field of nursing and advanced-practice nursing is on the rise, and the school of thought towards men in nursing is changing.
Another challenge, perhaps one of the most significant, is that many female patients prefer a female provider, especially for women's health. Undergoing a well-woman exam can be uncomfortable in an of itself- and having a male perform the exam may create more anxiety for female patients. Discussing issues such as STDs, contraception, and sexual health and intimacy with a male provider can also be uncomfortable. Additionally, many women prefer a female women's health provider as they can sympathize with certain components of female health as they are, in fact, female as well.
This preference may affect male women's health nurse practitioners in the workplace as they may not have a large panel of patients, which leads to an unbalanced work load in partnership-style practices. For male WHNPs who wish to open their own practice, this can be especially disadvantageous.
For male Women's Health NPs, the issue is not that they aren't taken seriously. Perhaps, in the old days, that may have been the case. Educated, competent male advanced-practice nurses are increasingly entering the workforce and in many specialty areas. It's a matter of preference among female patients - which may also change in the future.