Wanted: More Men in Nursing

Although nursing has historically been considered a career for women, men have been joining the profession in greater numbers. Despite this demographic shift, nursing remains a field dominated by females, and a shortfall of male RNs still exists.

Men play a critical role in nursing, providing care to patients who prefer a same-sex nurse, and they often moving on to more advanced degrees and roles following completion of a BSN program. Recruitment efforts are underway to increase male nursing school enrollments, reduce the stigma surrounding their entry into the profession and provide education about the benefits of a nursing career including job security, competitive salary and advancement opportunities.

How Many Men Are in Nursing?

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, as of April 2017 there were 333,530 professionally active male nurses in the United States. However, these numbers include both licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs). Based on the nearly 4.2 million active LPNs and RNs in the entire country, this indicates that male nurses account for only 8 percent of the nursing workforce.

Data from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) provides a more accurate representation of the number of male RNs. The organization's 2015 National Nursing Workforce Study found that prior to the year 2000, there were 5.8 percent male RNs. Between 2013 and 2015, those numbers nearly tripled to 14.1 percent.

While the ratio of male to female nurses remains lopsided, initiatives are in place to increase the male RN workforce. One such initiative, 20 x 20 Choose Nursing, is spearheaded by the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN). Through education and outreach efforts, the organization aims to decrease the stigma surrounding males in nursing and demonstrate the viability of the career as well as expand male nursing school enrollments to 20 percent by 2020.

What Important Nursing Roles Do Males Fulfill?

Men bring significant value to the nursing workforce. Many patients feel more comfortable receiving care from a nurse of the same sex, and accommodating such a request has the potential to improve patient satisfaction and treatment compliance. Research by athenahealth evaluated males' physician preferences and found that a same-sex preference does exist. Based on these findings, it is likely that male patients also prefer same-sex nurses, underscoring the importance of having male nurses on staff to meet patient expectations and ensure a positive patient experience.

Male RNs also tend to gravitate toward fast-paced and high-paying nursing positions, fulfilling such instrumental roles as flight nurses and nurse anesthetists. The U.S. Census Bureau found that males represent 41 percent of nurse anesthetists and earn an average of $162,900 per year, much greater than the average female nurse's pay of $51,100.

What Potential Problems Do Male Nurses Encounter?

Male nurses encounter their own share of unique problems. They can address workplace challenges by being aware of these potential issues:

Gender stereotypes. Unfortunately, gender stereotypes run deep, so male nurses should be prepared to encounter resistance from patients, caregivers and even coworkers. This behavior presents in various ways -- from teasing or anger to the expectation that male nurses will automatically complete all physical tasks.

Female care. When it comes to providing care to women for sensitive or invasive procedures and treatments, male RNs need to ensure the patient's comfort first and foremost. Simply being mindful of the circumstances or giving the patient the option to have a female nurse present can prevent unnecessary stress or trauma.

Miscommunication. Despite your best intentions, miscommunication will happen. Men and women tend to have different communication preferences, which can cause additional tension with coworkers and patients when misinterpretations happen.

Calling All Male RNs

Despite the gradual increase in the number of male RNs, nursing remains a field largely populated by females. Because men offer distinct and valuable contributions to nursing and patient care, various education and outreach efforts are in place to dispel the stereotyping male nurses face, clearly convey the career benefits and attract more men to the profession.

Learn more about the LSUA online RN to BSN program.


American Association for Men in Nursing: 20 x 20 Choose Nursing

athenahealth: Are Male Patients Comfortable with Women Doctors?

U.S. Census Bureau: Men in Nursing Occupations: American Community Survey Highlight Report

National Council of State Boards of Nursing: National Nursing Workforce Study

Kaiser Family Foundation: Total Number of Professionally Active Nurses, by Gender

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