Nursing's untapped source
By Marlene Ruiz, RN, BSN, MA
Certainly, they are in the minority. The Department of Health and Human Services and the National Council of State Boards of Nursing report the percent of males in the nursing profession ranges from 5.4 to 7.4 according to 1996-1997 data. With the nursing shortage continuing to grow, discovering why men choose to pursue a nursing career could help uncover how to reach this untapped source of new professionals.
Despite being so outnumbered by women, male nursing students often site a positive role model who significantly impacted their decision to choose nursing. James Mandani, a senior at Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California, has a mother who is a nurse and a father who is a physician. "I chose to follow in my mother's footsteps because nursing is more hands-on and closer to the patient." Jordan Lee, also at Azusa Pacific, commented that he originally considered medical school, but chose nursing instead. Soon to graduate with a BSN, Lee indicated advanced education is probably in his future. Today, however, he enjoys the hands-on experience with patients that he would have missed had he gone to medical school. Men are often drawn to nursing as a second career. Bill Latimer, RN, from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, having been outsourced from the previous job said, "I needed something more than a paycheck. The nursing field has given me just that, many times over."
What do people think?
In the media, there is often a negative stereotype, which can be counterproductive in the recruitment of more men into nursing. How do men in nursing feel about the stereotypes? Luther Borgardt, RN, a staff nurse at Loma Linda VAMC, stated that stereotypes don't bother him. He points to his good job and the ability to find another one where the salary is also good. "Others should think seriously about that!" Just like many women in the profession, men in nursing often report receiving tremendous encouragement from friends, family and colleagues and sincerely feel that their choice was a great one, totally supported by the people in their lives. "Nursing is a good career that offers diverse professional opportunities and a way to give back to society," said Richard Smith, RN, MN, an assistant professor at the University of Arkansas College of Nursing. "As we are more successful at breaking down barriers, men will naturally enter nursing as a profession."
How do we recruit more men?
With the current nursing shortage and the increasing need for nurses, we need to be resourceful and not limit our recruitment. Just as women have a variety of careers to choose from, men now have the opportunity to consider those previously thought to be for women only. Targeting students while still in elementary and middle school is one opportunity to attract young students to the profession. Because career counselors often don't have a solid understanding of the diverse and challenging opportunities for nurses, they aren't able to encourage nursing as a viable career choice for their students. Having registered nurses visit schools or present at career fairs in their uniform with props is an excellent way to share the profession with students first-hand. Other strategies include proposing nursing as a second career option to adults and working closely with the media to include coverage of all nurses. "It's healthy for a profession to have as many ideas and approaches as possible," says Smith. "Patients and students benefit from all nurses-both men and women-who are committed to excellence in their profession."
Marlene Ruiz, RN, BSN, MA, is director of education and consulting services at Kaiser Permanente, San Diego, Calif.
This article also provided to Monster.com's Health site.