Perspectives on Masculinity

Future of Men and Future of Work

Men’s Style Articles

Interview with a Male Nurse

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.

Blue-Collar / White-Collar

By David Michael Newstead.

A lot has been said about blue-collar jobs and white-collar jobs, but you might be wondering what shirt collars have to do with our economy or how that became shorthand for class distinctions. The basic difference is this: blue-collar workers perform manual labor and white-collar workers don’t. The functional benefit of blue shirts is that they hide the dirt, smudges, and stains of manual labor better than other colors. So, this is advantageous for mechanics, factory workers, and plumbers. Meanwhile, the average white-collar office worker only has to worry about spilled coffee no matter what color shirt they wear.

On a deeper level though, the divide between blue-collar and white-collar has always entailed differences in their levels of education, income, and their social status with issues of race and gender not far behind. Historically, white-collar workers have been on the higher end of all these indicators, enjoying careers as lawyers, accountants, and the like. Blue-collar workers less so. However, these generalizations never applied 100% of the time and are no longer that accurate in today’s economy.

So in 2017, this is sometimes a difference without a distinction. For instance, office interns are certainly white-collar workers, but they don’t enjoy much in the way of income or social status. The same goes for the current surplus of lawyers, professors without tenure, and many others who have seen their benefits and career prospects dwindle in a crowded and very educated labor market that’s concentrated in major cities where your barista might have a graduate degree. Likewise, blue-collar work is fast becoming more technically sophisticated than it once was as well as more susceptible to automation like in the case of coal miners. The result, in both cases, is more people struggling to find work.

Strangely enough, even our proposals for economic progress still show a lingering blue-collar / white-collar schism. Becoming a successful entrepreneur, for example, comes with definite white-collar social status. Meanwhile, one widely discussed idea is to retrain blue-collar workers to become computer programmers. The irony of this being computer programmers perform no physical labor whatsoever. However, they might work long hours writing code, while wearing t-shirts or Mark Zuckerberg style hoodies and drinking Red Bulls. That’s a big change from the days of the assembly line. Another proposal is to retrain blue-collar workers so that they can make up for labor shortages in the healthcare field, becoming nurses, technicians, and physicians assistants. The difficulty here is trying to make largely female professions appealing to people used to male-dominated industries. Fortunately for everyone, hospital scrubs come in blue.

Extras: Blue-Collar / White-Collar