Men in Nursing

by Dani Eveloff, MS, RN

Nursing is no longer just a female profession

June 29, 2009

You don't have to be in the huddle to know that there is a critical shortage of nurses in the U. S.

As hospitals and nursing colleges become more creative in their efforts to tackle this shortage, heads, and not just pretty ones, are turning to the males in America as future players on the nursing team. This crisis isn't a game but a serious shortage that needs a creative but solid game plan.

Just as critical as the nursing shortage is is the lack of diversity in nursing, including not only ethnicity but gender.

Nursing colleges and universities, nursing college and hospital recruiters are making strong efforts to increase diversity, including the under-represented population of men in nursing. Neither current populations of nursing students or nurses mirror the general population. Health care needs won't be fully met until nursing reaches a more equal diverse workforce. It's time to punt.

Although this is not a new effort and many schools have been recruiting men for years, the face of nursing is changing and it's becoming more rugged-looking. While nursing schools still actively recruit males, the tables are turning and in a reverse play, men are now approaching nursing colleges seeking a nuring education in the hopes of pursuing a rewaridng nursing career. These are strong lures to the male population. No longer are male nurses just being found in ER's, critical care units, and emergency transport helicopters. They are working in labor and delivery, informatic departments, forensic police divisions, law firms, corporations, and in entrepreneurial endeavors. They are advance practice nurses including nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, case managers, and certified nurse anesthetists.

"Meet the Parents", a 2000 movie, provoked laughter in audiences across the nation when Ben Stiller revealed he was a male nurse, making some nurses feel like they'd like to punt kick the writer, but the last laugh may be from the male nurses themselves.

Recruiting Young Men

Recruitment and retention of men into nursing can be divided into 4 quarters: recruitment of the young, marketing, retention, and alumni recruitment. All are equally important to the game and the outcome depends on the success of every quarter. Teamwork from faculty, staff and students is essential for a win-win situation.

Recruitment of the young is both challenging and fun. Recruitment of males from Generation "X" and "Y" requires creativity. Being used to fast-paced, interactive, high tech, rapid response learning, Generation X and Y are fast learners. If Gen "X" and "Y" are fast learners, then younger children must be the "Z" or "Zip" generation. It's no longer enough to educate and recruit Gen X and Y.

In order to increase the number of males in nursing, the "Z's" are being "recruited" as well. As nursing colleges get ready to tackle the needs of these students, colleges of nursing are developing and incorporating the use of online courses, computer simulations, high-tech learning labs, virtual reality caves and theatres, and human-like computer models. This high tech approach may stimulate interest in nursing and score when career choices are being made. "X," "Y" and "Z" kids may be at the end of the alphabet but they're definitely not the last ones off the bench.

Marketing for Men

With a struggling economy, marketing efforts are also being directed towards jobless college students and grads as well as second-career seekers, many of them males. These marketing materials are also being shared with high school and college counselors who are being educated not only on the nursing shortage but on the need for diversity in the profession.

Bright students are encouraged to consider not only medicine, but nursing as well. So a budding anesthesiologist may also be encouraged to be a nurse anesthetist, or a future pediatrician to consider becoming a pediatric nurse practitioner.

Counselors are being taught the difference between a primary care physician, a family nurse practitioner and a physician's assistant. Many are grateful that the health care community is reaching out and explaining what has long been a source of confusion for the public. Salary ranges are being openly discussed and promoted. Although caring and compassion are always part of all health professions, intelligent students often make career choices based on multiple factors, including salary.


Retention is also being closely analyzed since recruitment by itself is only a good kick at the start of the game if the team doesn't follow through. Diversity committees and events are being formed in hospitals and nursing colleges to make everyone feel comfortable in nursing. Much focus has rightfully been on recruiting different ethnicities into nursing but often the males are the forgotten minority on the game board.

Alumni recruitment is the final step. Male nursing students and alumni are both being used as recruiters. They are encouraged to pass the ball and be mentors and role models for future male nurses and/or to pursue teaching in nursing.

In Summary

Nursing has traditionally been an invisible profession almost as if playing in the dark. It's time to turn on the field lights. Perhaps the addition of men to the profession will help make nursing more visible. Instead of the traditional "Ya Ya sisterhood", nursing is moving towards a model where "Da Da" and not just "Ma Ma" can be a nurse. Recruit both parents and you've got a touchdown. Recruit their child and you've got the point after.

Just females in nursing? Game over. It's a new world, baby, and males in nursing are part of it.

About the Author:

Dani Eveloff, MS, RN is currently the recruitment coordinator for the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Nursing. She is in charge of recruitment from the BSN to post-doctoral level for all four campuses in Omaha, Lincoln, Kearney and Scottsbluff, Nebraska as well as national and international recruitment. In addition, she is the co-director of Childhood Recognition Association, Inc., a non-profit organization started in 1990 to promote the rights of children. She has also worked as a consultant and lectured at national conventions and coordinated with national hospitals and universities. Her experience in recruitment has led to national recognition and publication from AACN, Minority Nurse, Nurseweek, Hispanic Outlook for Higher Education, American Demographics, Physicians Practice, Universal E-Clips, The Edge, as well as other nursing publications.

A registered nurse for over 30 years, her experience has ranged from hospitals to corporations to universities. She enjoys teaching children about nursing as well as educating nurses.

All rights to this article are reserved by the author.

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