The nursing field is still dominated by women, but more and more men are joining their ranks.
The stigma is fading, and the opportunities are beckoning. For students like Trevor Potts, interviewed in an article in the South Dakota State University newspaper, the chance to make people feel better and help others draws him to nursing. “It doesn’t bother me that it’s a field dominated by women,” he says.
The number of nurses who are male has more than doubled since 1980, though the percentages are still small. Then, about 3 percent of all nurses were male; now, about 6.6 percent of them are.
With increasing numbers come increasing acceptance, though sometimes there is still a level of discomfort with having a male nurse as a caregiver:
Potts said during his clinical training for SDSU a female patient asked that he stay out of the delivery room when she was giving birth. Although this happens, Potts said it’s few and far between and most patients are positive about him being a male and a nurse.
“There are always times when someone says, ‘Oh, another male nurse,’ but it’s usually a positive reaction or more of a surprise than a negative reaction,” he said.
By entering a field dominated by the opposite sex, Potts and other male nurses might be perceived as being at a disadvantage, but according to an article by Joan Evans, “Men in nursing: issues of gender segregation and hidden advantage,” from the Journal of Advanced Nursing, this is not the case.
According to Evans, because the United States is a patriarchal culture, men’s greater status awards them “situational dominance” even when they are the minority and even gives them a special privileged minority status.
“I think being a male will actually be more of an advantage,” said Potts. “Places are always wanting to hire male nurses.”
There is another advantage males see working as a nurse: higher pay. In 2008, the BLS reported female RNs earned a median weekly salary of $1,011, while the median weekly earning for male nurses was $1,168. This means that women made only 86.6 percent of what men made as nurses.
This number might have less to do with whether a nurse is a male or female and more to do with rank. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, nearly half of their number — 46% — were male during 2008. These positions pay significantly more at about $160,000 to $180,000 per year. Floor nurses, who are mostly women, get paid about $50,000 a year.
Potts will begin as an RN when he enters the workforce, but doesn’t plan to stay there. After two years of critical care training he plans to climb the healthcare ladder and become a CNRA to earn more money, status and respect.
“You definitely see more men in that field. You can make more money, claim a higher status and you just receive more respect from doctors and health professionals overall,” Potts said.