By David Michael Newstead.
Nursing has been frequently mentioned as a career alternative for men as blue-collar industries like manufacturing and coal mining disappear across the United States. However, gender differences between these jobs and our views about them complicate the need for a steady paycheck. This was recently articulated in a not-so-subtle New York Times piece entitled Men Don’t Want to be Nurses. Their Wives Agree. To get more perspective on this, I decided to reach out to a male nurse I know to discuss the apparently contentious issue of men in nursing.
David Newstead: So, what’s it like being a male nurse?
Male Nurse: I don’t mind, though occasionally you’ll find a passage in a textbook about the role of nurses and it’s clearly written toward a female audience.
David Newstead: How do female nurses react to you?
Male Nurse: They’re happy about it. The whole gender issue has never come up. Pretty much every nurse you talk to will say they need more male nurses.
David Newstead: Why’s that?
Male Nurse: Combative patients and heavy patients are probably the two biggest reasons why male nurses are valued. Otherwise, it just comes down to some people feel more comfortable if the nurse performing a particular procedure is a particular gender.
David Newstead: What are some of the negative impressions you’ve encountered?
Male Nurse: Well, it’s definitely been seen as beneath men who are supposed to be the doctors and decision-makers, but it’s also because the profession of nursing perpetuates that their value is in being caring individuals rather than highly skilled and knowledgeable healthcare personnel. Nurses over-humanize themselves because for reasons unknown to me they don’t want to be seen as technicians. No matter how skilled.
David Newstead: Do you think people would react differently if male nurses had a different job title? Like maybe that would fix everything.
Male Nurse: My wife says yes. Nurse has an inherently female connotation. I’m not so sure myself. I think having a different job title for male nurses would be more of a hassle than just having folks deal with the fact that some nurses are men.
David Newstead: I guess you’re right. I can’t think of any good replacement titles. Orderly? Health Technician? I don’t know…
David Newstead: In your view, is nursing a good replacement for blue-collar manufacturing jobs? This gets talked about a lot.
Male Nurse: Not really. For one, we need manufacturing jobs. America shouldn’t stop making stuff. For another, nursing requires minimum two years of college education, which many guys who can make a good wage manufacturing out of high school wouldn’t be able to hack or even care about like high level anatomy and physiology courses.
David Newstead: Are they going to have many other choices as technology continues to impact the job market?
Male Nurse: Probably not, but that’s why we need to fight automation and artificial intelligence in such jobs.