Men in Nursing: Working in a Female Dominated Profession

For some, men in nursing can be a touchy subject. Some nurses just can’t stand it. They hide among the woodwork, snarking about how the profession has changed. The question is whether the profession has changed for the better or for the worse. For some time, nursing has been a female-dominated profession, and doctors have predominantly been male.

Women have worked for over a century to get equal recognition as doctors in their own right. They rally against such language constructions as ‘woman doctor‘ and ‘female doctor.’ Likewise, many men don’t like the terminology ‘male nurse‘, although that is what they are routinely called.

Working with Men

Many men who enter the nursing profession do not encounter outright hostility, but some of them do. Whether it is the entrenched older nurse during school or a manager who thinks nursing is primarily for females, a minority of nurses out there hate the change that has come over the profession. However, working with men can actually strengthen the profession in many ways.

It is hard to generalise about an entire sex, so these observations do not apply in every situation, but men in nursing have made the entire profession take a better look at itself. No longer are the old routines adequate. They make the profession better by merely bringing a different perspective – sometimes from male dominated professions, such as manufacturing or IT. Men also relate on a personal level differently than women. When drama occurs on the floor, most of the time men are not a part of it. They raise the bar professionally and help nursing become a more pleasant experience.

men in nursing

Inadvertent Sexual Harassment

Women are not often named in sexual harassment cases. For this reason, we may not realise when we are singling someone out because of their sex. For instance, remarks like, ‘oh, I’m working with a cute boy tonight,’ can be taken as sexual harassment. Making comments about someone that focus primarily on their sex are not appropriate.

Most men ‘don’t mind,’ but if the comments were made about the women on the shift, the consequences would be dire for the male. For instance, if a man said, ‘I am working with a bunch of hot chicks tonight,’ you can be sure he would find himself in the manager’s office. As women in nursing, we must be careful what we say to men we encounter. Most males I have worked with are fine with the friendly ribbing and banter that happens among colleagues. That is generally how many men have learnt to bond too, but there should be a very clear line when comments, whether intended or not, can become sexual harassment. Nurses need to be careful and respectful with how they speak to coworkers.

The Glass Elevator

One interesting phenomenon of men in nursing is the concept of the glass elevator. In male dominated professions, women can encounter the glass ceiling effect that limits them from reaching higher levels of responsibility in that profession. In nursing, many hold the opinion that male nurses are generally paid more, tend to hold more supervisory positions, and are quickly moved to top level jobs, while women remain in supportive roles. This phenomenon is termed the glass elevator.

Even this distinction, though, brings home the idea that men and women in nursing are not equal.

Either men are marginalised for choosing a female dominated profession, or they are held up above other nurses because of their sex. The solution to this problem, of course, is to rate all nurses on their merit, not their sex.

If management and nurses on the floor could look past gender, many of these issues would disappear. Likewise, women can learn a great deal from men, but that does not necessarily make them more qualified to be managers. Only the merit of each individual nurse should go into making that decision, and it is time that nursing started living up to that standard.

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