Decades ago there was a bias towards male nurses but does that still exist today? Many male and female nurses say that although they have encountered or heard about gender discrimination against men, they believe it is the fault of a few individuals rather than a pervasive problem. “Most nurses don’t care who you are as long as you can do the job and most patients feel the same way. The perception that men are stymied in nursing today is overblown,” said Vern Bullough, Ph.D., RN, adjunct professor of nursing at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, and a distinguished professor emeritus at State University of New York. “Some hospitals, for a while, tried to keep men out of ob/gyn floors and women’s health wards. Generally, though that has not happened in recent years. There is still some difficulty for men to become nurse-midwives, but even that has broken down,” Bullough said. “Some women deliberately discriminate against male nurses, but this is a small minority of people. I’ve had tremendous support from female nurses,” said Bullough.
Mark Buike, RN, feels at ease and confident as a male nurse. Buike, a Nurse II in the pediatrics ICU at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, says that any door he has wanted to walk through has been open to him. “In nursing school, even though it was 1980 and I initially went to a Catholic diploma school, they made every service open. I’ve worked in newborn ICU, pediatric ICU, adult ER, and cardiovascular ICU. I’ve never felt that I was not allowed to go to any particular area. I’ve been to delivery C-sections and ob/gyn emergencies in the ER. I’ve never felt stymied,” he said.
To better understand the plight of her male colleagues and students, Karen Morin, DSN, RN, professor of nursing and professor in charge of graduate nursing programs at the Pennsylvania State University in University Park, joined the AAMN board. That membership, she says has made her realize the subtle discriminations and biases that women, including nurses, physicians and patients, interject. “Nursing faculty needs to be aware of potential problems, especially when patients might feel uncomfortable about having a male nurse,” Morin said.
Jerry Lucas, RN, publisher of Male Nurse Magazine, reports that we are still far behind. He says, “We can get them in, but we can’t keep them in. Some studies have shown that men drop out of nursing school and the profession at a greater rate than women do, although reasons for this are not clear and need further research. One possibility is the stress from gender discrimination; another is that the work does not meet the expectation which is a common reason for female nurses to drop out.”