Breaking gender stereotypes in the nursing field

Despite job opportunities, men remain rare in nursing.

Chad O’Lynn has taught nursing at Montana State University and the University of Portland. In 2006 he co-authored the first comprehensive academic book on men in nursing. But his latest, “A Man’s Guide to a Nursing Career,” is intended as a pragmatic introduction for men in the field or those considering it.  

Is there still a big demand for nurses?
Yes. Even in a tight job market, we’re facing a looming nursing shortage.

Can nursing be a good second career?
Definitely. In fact, there’s research that suggests that men are more likely to come to nursing as a second career.

In the U.S., what percentage of nurses are men?
Depending on the source, it ranges from about 6.9 to 7.2 percent. It’s one of the most gender-imbalanced fields in the health profession.

Has that number changed over the years?
In 1960 it was 1 percent. In the ’90s it was around 5 percent. So, not much, comparatively. 

Is there a perception that most men in nursing are gay?
That’s an unfortunate, damaging stereotype. There’s no evidence to suggest that. Sadly, being gay carries a stigma in our society, so men may reject the idea of a nursing career because of it. My sense is that that perception is less of a problem today than it used to be. In years gone by it was a huge problem, and it was well documented in the literature.

Has there been a push by any major institutions to get more men in nursing?
The short answer is no. Men are not a minority group, so they can’t be given preferential treatment in recruitment programs.



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