Today there are 2.1 million registered nurses in the United States and only 5.4% of them are male. Men also make up only 13% of all new nursing students, according to MinorityNurse.com.
Obviously these statistics point to a female dominant field, yet history reveals a different story. During the Middle Ages, most nurses were male, since religion controlled everything. Women were not only excluded from any authoritative positions, but were being slaughtered as “witches”. At this time, St. Benedict started the Benedictine nursing order and the Alexian Brothers provided nursing care in the 1300’s. These two organizations are still in existence today. Throughout the Middle Ages, military, religious and lay orders of men were providing the majority of the nursing care.
Nursing schools for men were common in the United States until the early 1900’s. In fact, more than half of those offering paid nursing services to the ill and injured were male nurses. Yet by 1930, men made up less than 1% of RN’s in the United States. As more lucrative occupations were found, many men left the nursing field behind.
The men that continued to persevere in the field of nursing found they needed a voice. The American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) was founded in 1971. The role of the AAMN is to provide a framework for male nurses to meet, discuss and look at what factors affect them as nurses.
The 1980-1990s created another shift in the nursing profession for men, as well as for women. Inflation, a shortage of nurses, the rise in nurses wages and a change in gender attitude all contributed to bringing more men into the profession. Although the current percentage of male nurses is still low, the number of male students is slowly on the rise, which should allow greater numbers of men to enter the nursing profession.