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ADVANCE Perspective: Nurses

Men in Nursing: A Diversity Solution

Published November 10, 2014 10:04 AM by Guest Blogger

By Sam Osei, RN

In my opinion, I do not think the body of nursing has done enough to acknowledge the presence of males in the nursing profession in this 21st century. Low interest in nursing for men contributes to the lack of gender diversity in the profession. As a result, stereotype of nursing as a “female profession” persists. Men make up fifty % of the general population, therefore, developing strategies to encourage men to choose nursing will not only help to diversify the profession but will also help to fill the gap for the anticipated nursing shortage and eliminate the stereotype of nursing as a female profession.

Nursing Shortage

The anticipated next nursing shortage is not all about the fact that the nation’s schools of nursing are not producing enough nurses to meet the demand for healthcareservices. Neither is the shortage of nurses only about the lack of nursing educators or not enough schools available. It is also about the possible number of baby boomers retiring in the next few years. According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), the average age of nursing professionals is about 44.5 years as of 2012, ("AACN," 2010) and this group will be retiring in the next few years. Also, a specific elderly population in our society is living longer. Therefore, it is certain to project a cause for national crisis with too few nurses to care for such a large human population.

Furthermore, the current trend of hospitals acquiring magnet status has resulted in the hiring of Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) prepared nurses and the elimination of Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) positions. This has increased the pressure of associate degree nurses (ADN’s) to acquire Bachelor of Science in nursing degree within a set amount of time, or lose their job and there by adding more fuel to the anticipatory nursing shortage.

The nursing shortage needs to be addressed head on and I will be pleased to read first hand from your prestigious journal my suggestions for an alternative solution to combat the shortage crisis.

Statistics

The nursing shortage threatens patient care, affordability, and safety. Studies have corroborated the intuitive idea that when nurses are understaffed, patient safety suffers and medical error increase (AACN, 2010). The supply of nurses in this country is made up of licensed practical nurses (LPN’s), registered nurses (RN’s) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN’s). The profession is predominantly females and according to the National League for Nursing (NLN), male enrollment in undergraduate nursing education has increased to 16% in 2011 ("NLN," 2013). However, according to the Department of Professional Employees (DPE), only 9% of registered nurses of the national workforce is composed of men ("DPE, 2013"). It is time that the “gurus” in the profession refrain from using derogatory words in discouraging the few accepted males in nursing.

The Basics

The nursing profession is not just pushing pills and taking orders as some may think, instead, providing care beyond and above expectation. Providing physiological and psychosocial needs of our patients sometimes require using personal resources that have gone unnoticed. Kudos to most nurses who exceed expectation in care, providing basic needs such as clothing, powder, combs, and shoes to name just a few that contribute to “Holistic Care”.

On the same token, just as physical needs are not only part of the holistic care, emotional needs are also taken into consideration. What is considered “woman talk” in patient care, where by a woman nurse to woman patient is requested to resolve pertinent issue related to their care; it is likewise in “man to man talk”, male patients may feel more comfortable in discussing issues with their male nurses. The female patient also do ask for the male perspective in issues that is also pertinent to their care. It is time to look beyond the past and encourage men to pursue the nursing profession as a career.

Population

The need for healthcare is growing. The fact still remain that people are living longer. The population aged 65 and older will double from 2000 to 2030 and the nation’s nursing care is expected to balloon over the next 20 years ("BLS," 2010). According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the future demand for nurses is expected to increase dramatically when the baby boomers reach their 60’s and beyond (BLS, 2010). Also, the population aged 85 and older is the fastest growing age group in the U.S.

 Men make up 50% of the population, and they remain the largest source to plan for the future nursing profession. By 2020 the number of nurses will fall nearly 20% below requirement; therefore, using all resources available to attract men into the profession will not only diversify the nursing profession but also provide competent and increase choices available to the patient population in offering care. The Institute of Medicine reported that, “Men’s unique perspective and skills are important to the profession and will help contribute additional diversity to the workforce” ("IOM," 2010). We need men in nursing to enhance diversity (Vicki, 2012) and to close the gap for nursing shortage.

Challenge

For these reasons mentioned, I call on the nursing profession to step up and recognize that there is only “A Nurse,” and not a male or female nurse. Every effort should be made to recognize that men are an additional resource to the profession in contributing to the “Holistic Care” teachings. This idea is worth encouraging males to pursue the profession and not to discourage them into nursing. After all, nursing still remain second to none because of the vast amount of knowledge we bring to healthcare.

I challenge all nurses, professors of nursing and the nursing profession to consider men in nursing as a viable solution to the nursing shortage and a viable resource in this great profession.

Conclusion

I am a registered nurse who specializes in spinal cord and brain injuries, working in a specialty healthcare facility in Connecticut. I am proposing an extensive recruitment campaign geared towards men to tap into the 50% male population. Part of the campaign effort will be geared towards eliminating the stereotype of nursing as a female only profession, and the successes of male nurses in the different nursing environments. This effort in campaigning will help open the door to accept more males in this non-traditional field of practice hence contribute to the diversity in nursing and confront head on the predicted nursing shortage.

Sam Osei is a registered nurse at the Hospital for Special Care, University of Hartford, Hartford, Conn. 

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