Men in Nursing: The Pivotal Role of Recruitment
Historically nursing has been considered a female profession due, in part, to the industry’s predominantly female workforce. While the number of men who enter the nursing profession has grown significantly in the last two decades, male nurses still only make up approximately 6 percent of all RNs in the United States.
"The growth of men in nursing has been very slow to progress. It’s concerning because men can provide unique perspectives that are important to nursing and they tend to have very fulfilling careers in the field," said William T. Lecher, RN, MS, MBA, NE-BC and President of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN).
The 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) Future of Nursing report calls attention to the need for more diversity in nursing, stating "while most disciplines within the health professional workforce have become more gender balanced, the same has not been true for nursing … to improve the quality of patient care, a greater emphasis must be placed on making the nursing workforce more diverse, particularly in the areas of gender and race/ethnicity."
Recognizing the need for more gender diversity in the nursing profession, the AAMN recently launched an aggressive 10-year recruitment plan to boost the percentage of male nurses. The AAMN named the initiative "20 X 20 Choose Nursing" to highlight the goal of increasing male enrollment in nursing programs nationally and globally to 20 percent by the year 2020. In an effort to make gender less of an issue in the nursing workforce, AAMN’s campaign efforts focus on eliminating gender stereotypes so the field is more encompassing and gender neutral.
The AAMN hopes to reach its goal through the use of social media, posters, scholarship opportunities and partnerships with colleges and health systems to encourage male nurse enrollment and retention. With the posters, the AAMN aims to communicate to men of all ages that the opportunities in nursing are virtually endless. The AAMN has also developed an updated logo and tagline, which reads "Advancing Men in Nursing."
To help support the "20 X 20 Choose Nursing" campaign, AAMN is seeking partners to assist in the development of the national strategy, as well as best practices to recruit and retain more men in nursing. "This element of the campaign provides a system-change approach to help emphasize the need for gender diversity in nursing education and the nursing workplace," said Lecher.
Specifically, AAMN is looking to partner with 15 schools or colleges of nursing to help increase the number of men enrolled in nursing programs to 30 percent with 90 percent retention. Additionally, AAMN is seeking partnership with 10 hospitals or health systems to help reach 20 percent of men in nursing employment with 90 percent retention.
"Diversity in the workplace can enhance work group functionality, helping to provide better care for patients," said Lecher. "That’s why it’s important for nurse leaders to continue their efforts in recruiting men."
Lecher encourages men interested in becoming a nurse, or men who are already in nursing, to become members of the AAMN, as well as attend the AAMN 37th Annual Conference, "Men in Nursing: Partners and Leaders in Nursing’s Future," in San Francisco on October 24-26.
Male Nurses Helping Change the Face of Nursing
With healthcare emerging as one of the nation’s fastest growing industries and the demand for nurses continuing to rise, more men are showing heightened interest in the nursing profession. The growing number of men in nursing is promising for several reasons – one being that more men entering the field could help address the nursing shortage. Yet despite the narrowing of the gender gap, men can still face major hurdles as a minority in nursing.
While men were critical in creating the world’s first nursing school in India more than two thousand years ago, nursing has primarily been a career associated with women. This association is frequently reinforced in pop culture and the media, and as a result men are often asked why they became nurses instead of physicians. Courtney H. Lyder, ND, GNP, FAAN, Dean and Professor of UCLA School of Nursing has heard this question and others like it many times throughout his career. "There’s this false stereotype of male nurses," Lyder said. "Many people immediately think that men who become nurses simply do so as a backup plan and are sometimes shocked when a male enters the profession as a first choice. I would say that is the largest deterrent to attracting men to the field."
In the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the U.S. Department of Labor describes the qualifications for nurses as caring, sympathetic and patient – qualities that society sometimes projects as more feminine than masculine. The view of nursing as a "woman’s profession" is so pervasive that women are generally referred to as "nurses," while men in the profession are often qualified as "male nurses." This stereotype even exists within the field, as men in nursing often report workplace discrimination and believe that certain job areas are not open to them, according to a Journal of Christian Nursing article.
Despite the potential barriers that exist for men in the field, there are many important reasons for men to become nurses. According to a 2005 study by the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN), the number one reason men pursue nursing is because of a strong desire to help people. Beyond that, many men see nursing as a profession with many diverse career paths. The survey also revealed that 20 percent of all men respondents attended a nursing program right out of high school, while 44 percent came to nursing after another career. This suggests that more men in nursing are actively seeking the profession as a top career choice than in the past.
Because of the ongoing nursing shortage, 22 percent more jobs will need to be filled over the next few years, and Dr. Lyder has noticed that the number of men in nursing is already beginning to increase. In March 2012, the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) reported that job growth in the healthcare sector will account for one out of every five new jobs created this year. As the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, RNs will likely be recruited to fill many of these new positions.
"We have certainly noticed an increase in the number of men choosing nursing as a first choice, and while some may still re-evaluate their choice in profession, they generally come to the conclusion that nursing is a viable option for them," he said. "This change is very important because diversity is one of nursing’s greatest strengths. Nursing chooses people, not the other way around. Men who realize and accept this bring a unique and interesting perspective to healthcare."
For more information about men in nursing, visit www.discovernursing.com.
Get to Know:
Q. When did you decide to pursue a career in nursing and why?
A. I was about 10 years old when I first thought about a career in healthcare. I was in the hospital and had a great nurse with a caring and nurturing personality. She helped me take care of my stuffed animal, a chimpanzee affectionately known as "Clyde," in the same way that she was taking care of me. If I had an IV, Clyde had an IV. If I got an injection, Clyde got an injection. Sometimes he got his "treatment" first to ease my comfort level. Clyde even had his own armband while in the hospital. I remember my nurse telling me that I should consider becoming a nurse because I took such good care of Clyde. And that’s exactly what I did!
Q. What do you enjoy most about your profession?
A. I enjoy working with patients, their family members and my co-workers. They are the ones that you impact in ways that sometimes you don't even realize. Nursing is a very rewarding and humbling career. You see people come into the hospital sick, get intervention, and then they get better and go back to their lives and families as they knew it. You also see patients that come into the hospital but never leave again – they take their last breath and leave a loving family behind, sometimes with little notice. Those are the ones that make you go home and hug your wife, your children and be thankful for family, friends, independence, health, mental stability and so forth.
Q. What has been one of the greatest moments of your career?
A. I would have to say that when I received my Master's Degree in Nursing Administration, it was one of my greatest personal achievements to date. I had young children at home and worked full-time while being a full-time student. I had to make many sacrifices while I was in school, but I kept my eyes fixed on the prize – a MSN degree that would take my career to a new level once completed. I knew the journey would be so worth it in the end. It was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment!
I remember feeling a huge weight lifted and being quite emotional, not only because I was done with school, but also because I was breaking out of a mold in a family that did not have advanced or graduate degrees. I have now set an example to my children that through determination, perseverance and hard work, anything you set your sights on is possible.
Q. What advice would you offer to men interested in entering the nursing profession?
A. Go for it – nursing is a great profession for men! You have the opportunity to spend close time with your patients and their families and build a rapport that doesn’t necessarily exist in other disciplines. There are also so many different jobs within the nursing field that you can pursue and the flexibility has been great in my own career. I have had the opportunity to work in many great positions during my 14 years of nursing, and all of them have had an impact on the nurse I am today. I have been an IV nurse in a community clinic, a staff nurse, a nursing supervisor, a training coordinator for Hospital Emergency Preparedness, a nurse manager, a clinical director in Patient Flow and currently work in the business side of nursing for the Medical Administration Service.
Q. How has nursing impacted your life?
A. Nursing has definitely shaped me into the person I am today. I know that every day when I go to work I am making a difference in someone's life. I know that I have the opportunity to impact a life today, tomorrow, and in the future, and that alone gives me great fulfillment.
I recently served as a Voting Delegate at the American Nurses Association (ANA) House of Delegates meeting in Washington, D.C. It was a wonderful experience, seeing nurses come together from all across the country and work toward a common goal. Nursing is who I am. I identify with nurses, I recruit for nursing, I have dedicated my life to nursing, and as long as I have the chance, I will continue to represent this profession to the very best of my ability.
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