Male Nurses: Gaining Influence & Breaking Stereotypes

by: Keith Carlson

male-pintrestAccording to a variety of sources, men comprise just over 9 percent of the population of nurses in the United States in 2016. In 1970, men made up only 3 percent of the American nursing workforce; although the gender gap is still significant, men contribute great value within a predominantly female profession.


…men who choose nursing are those for whom compassion and its expression come more readily. [icon name=”twitter” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]


Men, Myths, and Stereotypes

While many myths about men prevail, one powerful myth is that men are less capable at feeling and expressing compassion and emotion. From a completely anecdotal perspective, it appears to some—including this writer—that men who choose nursing are those for whom compassion and its expression come more readily. A man who prefers minimal human contact might choose a desk job or time with machines that don’t talk back; one must assume that most men who choose nursing have a certain comfort with their own emotional life.

Men bring their own perspective to nursing, and organizations such as The American Assembly of Men in Nursing allow for research, publications, conferences, and the active recruitment of men into a burgeoning profession. The AAMN’s “20 x 20: Choose Nursing” campaign boasts the stated goal of increasing the percentage of men in nursing to 20 percent by 2020.

When men who work in nursing share stories, counter stereotypes, and bust myths propagated by the media and the wider culture, the profession is enriched by men entering the profession with eyes wide open to reality, rather than enculturated fictions.

Men and Diversity

Since men are known to be stereotypically task-oriented (a stereotype that many will agree is actually true), men who enter nursing have been seen to gravitate towards ICU, ED, anesthesia, and forms of nursing requiring highly technical skills. Approximately 40% of nurse anesthetists are male, demonstrating that many men certainly do align themselves with particular types of positions.

The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action is backed by The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) and is informed by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations regarding diversity within the nursing and healthcare workforces. RWJF and IOM include men as a target within the growth of nursing’s diversity:

“The overarching goal of the Campaign is to diversify the nursing workforce so that it more accurately reflects America’s changing demographics, and contributes to the reduction of healthcare disparities. To that end, the Campaign seeks to be all inclusive; we view diversity as a matter of race, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, ability, geographic location.”

Patients often want treatment by staff that reflect their own communities, thus a diverse workforce is paramount. Imagine the cultural power of a richly diverse population of men in nursing, with a broad array of racial, cultural, and lifestyle diversity represented within that nursing microcosm. As more boys and young men encounter men who are comfortable as nurses, stereotypes of the male nurse will give way to a realistic view of men as part and parcel of the delivery of high-quality care within an equally diverse healthcare ecosystem.


Men have much to contribute, and their gifts will be increasingly appreciated as their presence grows apace.[icon name=”twitter” class=”” unprefixed_class=””]

Celebrate Men in Nursing

Men who choose nursing are demonstrating that a male presence in a largely female field is normal. Men serving as nurses are examples to boys and young men seeking professional role models and viable 21st-century career options. As men continue to permeate various nursing roles, generations of patients will witness, and become accustomed to, the increasing presence of men.

Diversity comes in many guises, and the ascendancy of men of all stripes within nursing is an example of healthcare diversification.

If nursing is indeed the backbone and lifeblood of healthcare, men are themselves poised to be a sizeable portion of the lifeblood of the nursing profession. Men have much to contribute, and their gifts will be increasingly appreciated as their presence grows apace.



Keith Carlson

Keith Carlson

StaffGarden Contributor

You can read more from Keith on his award-winning blog, Digital Doorway and listen to him on RNFM Radio & on The Nurse Keith Show. 
As a Board Certified Nurse Coach, his passion is to help nurses & healthcare professionals create satisfaction in their personal & professional lives.


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