When you think of a nurse, what image comes to your mind? You probably visualize a white female dressed in a white nurses uniform or maybe you visualize one of the female nurse characters that you see on TV. But these days, the face of nursing is changing. Nursing is not just for women anymore. More and more men are entering this profession because they realize that nursing is a highly respected, highly technical field that pays pretty decent. But it may surprise you to learn that nursing was not always a female only profession. Read on to uncover the history of men in nursing and the challenges that male nurses face today.
The Truth About Men in Nursing
The very first nursing school was actually started in India in 250 B.C. This school was only for men because only they were considered “pure” enough to become nurses. As time marched on, there was more evidence scattered throughout history of men being nurses. There is even documentation found in the New Testament of the Good Samaritan paying the Innkeeper to care for an injured man.
Even in the early 1800’s men were nurses. A hospital in San Antonio made it clear that they would only employ male nurses. But things started to change with the Civil War. More men died in the Civil War than in any other war in U.S. history. After the war, many of the surviving men headed west in search of gold and riches.
So why are there more women and not men in the field of nursing? Well, in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s female nurses became organized and started to exclude men from nursing schools and hospitals. Nursing then became a predominantly female profession as it was touted as a career that the “modern” woman could get into to support herself. It was not until the 1950’s that men began to enter the nursing profession once again. But they were few and far between.
These days, the number of men in nursing is increasing, but it is still not easy for them. The stereotype of a nurse being a white, female holding a patient’s hand or giving a bath still lingers in today’s society. The public has a poorly skewed impression of what nursing really is. What the public does not realize is, that to be a nurse you have to have strong math and science skills, good communication skills, excellent critical thinking skills to make fast decisions and you must have a ton of technical knowledge. Don’t forget about the frequent adrenaline rushes that a nurse experiences. For the man who is an “adrenaline” junkie, nursing is the perfect profession. So what types of challenges should a male that becomes a nurse expect to encounter?
First of all, due to the public’s stereotyping of nurses, male nurses are not completely trusted. The public thinks there must be something “wrong” with you if you are a male nurse. A male nurse sometimes has to work a lot harder to prove himself to his patients and even to his co-workers.
Female patients may find it uncomfortable being attended to by a male nurse. The Obstetrics department is one of the biggest barrier that a male nurse faces. Some male nurses have even had to resort to legal action to be allowed to work in Obstetrics.
Another stereotype that men in nursing must face is that all male nurses are gay. Nothing is further from the truth! Once again, public perception of the nursing profession makes it difficult for a male nurse. The public seems to think that a nurse is there to be a “handmaiden” to the doctor and that only a gay man would want to be a doctor’s “handmaiden.”
Thank goodness, times are changing when it comes to the image of nursing. Media campaigns are now in place that include nurses as male and female coming from all ethnic backgrounds. And the percentage of men in nursing is definitely increasing. But we still have a long way to go to educate the public on what nursing is all about. So if you are a man who is looking for an exciting, well paying career where the opportunities are endless, check into nursing. There is no other profession like it!