Sexism in Nursing Is a Problem, but Not Like You Think
We all know that sexism, gender stereotypes, and prejudice have hurt different groups throughout history, particularly women.
It kept women from voting until the early 1900's... because surely a woman can't have an opinion about politics!. It kept many women from having careers since they were required to stay at home and in the kitchen, baking pies and sewing instead of making the impact they could have had.
It causes women in Hollywood (and many other workplaces) to be paid less, despite the fact that many female actors are so much better than male actors (see: Nicolas Cage, Keanu Reeves, John Travolta, etc.)
Sexism is a problem. We can all agree on that. Thankfully, much progress on behalf of women has been made in recent years and will continue to be made in the future.
But what if we told you that there was one profession in which sexism existed not against women, but against men?
Would you be shocked?
What industry are we referring to?
In this article, we're going to break down the what, why, and how of sexism in the nursing profession, and then suggest a few solutions. By the end, you'll be ready to start a petition to bring an end to the problem (that may be a bit extreme, but you get the point!).
At the outset, let me acknowledge that the title "nurse" doesn't really help men. It has many connotations that contribute to the overall sexism that pervades the industry. It brings up images of women nursing children and of traditional, female nurses walking the hospital floor. Neither of these images are wrong, they simply don't help the problem.
And it really is a significant problem. In the UK, the percentage of nurses who are male has stubbornly stayed at about 11.5% for the last decade. In the US, the percentage is similar. That means that for every 9 female nurses you encounter, you'll only encounter a single male nurse. Unless you stay at the hospital for some length of time, that means you will rarely, if ever, encounter male nurses.
This in and of itself goes some way toward explaining why there are so few male nurses. Some men, whether right or wrong, feel uncomfortable working almost exclusively with women. If they choose to be a nurse, they are essentially guaranteeing that almost every day they'll be surrounded by females.
This difficulty can be easily overcome, however. Dan Wicks, a registered nurse, says:
"I've been a nurse most of my working life, so being outnumbered by female colleagues is what I'm used to; I don't really notice it. Earlier in my career I had a few comments where patients seemed to have expected that the nurse caring for them was going to be a woman, but men were already becoming more commonplace in the profession when I qualified."
Another possible reason for the small amount of men in the nursing field is that society reinforces the idea that nursing is for women. In history, children learn the story of Florence Nightingale, the heroic nurse who is considered by many to be the founder of modern nursing.
Of course, this selective retelling of history neglects the fact that up until the 19th century, almost all nurses were men and that during many wars, it was men who tended the wounded. Traditionally, nursing hasn't been considered a feminine job. Maybe it's time to stop reinforcing that stereotype.
Here's the deal: our society needs more male nurses. Seriously. This isn't just a politically correct thing. There are certain things male nurses contribute that are essential and can't be replaced. So why should a guy become a nurse? Here's why.
#1 - Nurses Are In High Demand
"Statistics from the World Health Organization show that the total number of nurses actively working in the U.S. health care field has decreased dramatically since 2000, therefore causing the demand for nurses to increase. Another reason for the shortage is that our country's aging population is generating a growing demand for services like end-of-life and long-term care. More and more facilities are actively recruiting men into nursing as a way of addressing this critical shortage of qualified nurses."
This problem isn't going away anytime soon. The Baby Boomer generation is both living longer and beginning to experience the health problems that come with age.
When there's a shortage in a particular field, it almost always means that it's easier to find a job, you have more options when searching for a job, and you may become the subject of a bidding war between potential employers, resulting in higher pay.
Nursing can be a seriously lucrative career. Don't let traditional, outdated gender stereotypes hold you back from what could be one of the best decisions of your life.
#2 - The Pay Is Great
It's hard to argue with money. The average pay for nurses is around $65,000 in the United States. Considering how difficult it can be to find a job, let alone one that pays well, this is a fantastic benefit.
#3 - Some Men and Boys Are More Comfortable With Male Nurses
Let's face it: hospital gowns are the most awkward things ever invented. They are impossible to keep closed, often leaving you feeling uncomfortably exposed.
The simple truth is that some men and boys are more comfortable interacting with male nurses. This is understandable, especially when it comes to dealing with more...sensitive issues (you understand what we're talking about).
Donna Fitzsimmons, a Professor of Nursing and Midwifery, says:
"Boys, in particular, can find it hard to relate to women at times. Sometimes a male nurse can really bring out a side of a child that helps to lift their mood and allows them to feel more comfortable in a hospital setting."
#4 - You Can Specialize to Your Heart's Content
Let's say you grew up watching ER and loved the heart-pumping thrill of seeing George Clooney give someone a tracheotomy (too much?). You can be an emergency room nurse and experience that heart-pumping thrill in person! Or maybe you're outstanding with kids and would love working in a pediatric center. Or perhaps you have always been fascinated with human anatomy and would thrive in the operating room.
The beauty of nursing is that there are so many options, including ER, pediatrics, anesthesia, flight, oncology, psychiatry, and much more.
#5 - Nursing Allows You To Be An Outstanding Example To Young Boys
If the gender stereotype of nursing is going to be broken, young boys need to meet more male nurses. They need to understand that the job isn't only for women, and that men can enter the field and still be considered "manly" (yes, this is a loaded word, but it is often a concern for boys).
In many cases, male nurses do incredibly "manly" things, like deal with bullet wounds, keep a person from bleeding out, help the weak recover, and countless other tasks. Compared to traditional male jobs, like business management, nursing is way more "manly" (We're using the word in the old fashioned sense).
By entering the nursing field, you can help break the unhelpful gender stereotype that only women are nurses.
#6 - You Work in a Meaningful Job
So many jobs offer little to no actual job satisfaction. Sitting in a cubicle all day, attending pointless meetings, and working on weekends to get TPS reports filed isn't a particularly rewarding way to live.
Nursing, on the other hand, offers you the chance to make a meaningful day-to-day difference in people's lives. You get to comfort the sick, save lives, support people in their vulnerable moments, all while making a great living. It's hard to beat nursing in terms of making a real difference in the world.
We've come a long way in shattering many harmful sexist ideas. Women get to vote (can you believe this was actually an issue?), can have careers without being shamed, and are moving toward receiving more equal pay.
While men don't usually have to deal with nearly as many sexist stereotypes, they are subject to them when it comes to nursing. This needs to change. The world needs more male nurses. It needs them because there's a shortage of nurses and because guys bring valuable qualities to the table.
Don't let a gender stereotype hold you back from a fantastic career. They pay is great, you do meaningful work, and you can craft your career to your liking.
It's a win-win in every sense of the job.
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