A Boring Headline, and Some Troubling Questions

Courtesy of my Google News feed this morning, I came across this, possibly the most boring headline ever written about nurses:

I think nurses of, ahem, uncertain age will recognize this headline or its variants, because for the last twenty years we’ve been hearing with tedious regularity about impending wave of nurses who happen-to-be-male about to wash upon the shores of our female-dominated profession. This tsunami of eager male graduates has never actually materialized: in the U. S. (the article points out) about 6% of nurses are male; in Canada, the numbers advanced from a miniscule 3.8 % of nurses in 1995 to a very tiny 5.89% in 2005.

I’ve always been somewhat puzzled why young men find the prospect of a nursing career so unappealing and distasteful. On the face of it, the practical reasons for choosing nursing as a profession are compelling: nursing offers good pay and benefits, job security, portability, advancement, and so on. Is it because nurses have difficulty clearly articulating what we do without jargonizing like an abstract of a scholarly article on nursing paradigms, or worse, sounding like very inferior and dependent versions of physicians? (I recently saw an article somewhere by a nurse, and darned if I can’t find it, which defined nursing as a primarily concerned with executing physician orders!) Or is it because popular culture presents our profession as trivial, infantile and powerless and nurses by-and-large collaborate in maintaining this image?

[Update: Minor grammatical correction. Gaw, I need an editor, ’cause can’t proofread and I miss the stupidest things.]


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  1. #1 by nurseXY on Monday 13 September 2010 - 1241

    I think there is a certain amount of social pressure that causes males to shy away, a la Meet the Parents.

    Like you mentioned, the list of advantages is long and distinguished.

    My experience thus far has actually been pretty good, although there have been some moments I’ve felt discriminated against.

    People that try to tease me about becoming a nurse usual have much less to say when I tell them the salary I’ll make working 3 days a week…

  2. #2 by The Nerdy Nurse on Monday 13 September 2010 - 1447

    In general, nursing and caring are seen as motherly. (also mothers nursing their babys) Since these traits are seen as motherly they are therefor motherly. Unfortunatly it appears that most men have no desire to portray themselves as motherly or caring and have little desire to be associated with a profession dominated by females and historically associated with “the lady with the lamp” and one that was pervious image was that itwas filled with prostatturs a drunks.
    What we do isn’t often a desirable thing to do. Embalmers in Ancheint egypyt were the dirtiest lowest class but they played a vital roll in their society ( and are also the reason we have many artifacts today).
    Its all about image.
    Does the brawny man elicit any thoughts of nursing to you? Nursing droesnt evoke images of masculinity to most.

  3. #3 by shrtstormtrooper on Monday 13 September 2010 - 1648

    I guess I’m a bit spoiled because the majority of the male nurses in our hospital tend to end up in the ED or ICU, so my perception of how many there really are is skewed high.

    It’s sad though, because it’s such a great profession with plenty of room for both genders.

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