Changing Perceptions of Men in the Nursing Profession

As times have changed so has public perception and acceptance of male nurses.

For much of its history, nursing has primarily been thought of as a woman's domain. But as the health care sector continues to grow, and career opportunities in nursing expand apace, more men are joining the profession.

Overcoming stereotypes
For men who are interested in a career in nursing, the biggest obstacle seems to be the antiquated perception that it's a female-only field. In fact, a new study shows that, while those traditional stereotypes have less of a connection to reality, popular culture, especially in the form of television, continues to nurture the view that nursing is not a respectable profession for men.

The study, which was conducted by an Australian university and reported on by Reuters Health, looked at five American television shows that take place in hospitals and found that in the shows male nurses are often portrayed as lacking masculinity and are condescended to by their co-workers and superiors. It's a situation where television is lagging behind reality.

"People don't make decisions about which profession to choose just based on television, but students have told us that popular TV shows can help them choose a career, or that TV perpetuates negative stereotypes about nursing that they then have to address in practice," said Dr. Roslyn Weaver, an adjunct fellow at the University of Western Sydney School of Nursing and Midwifery, who led the research.

Trends buck perceptions
Despite public and popular perceptions, more men are filling jobs for registered nurses. According to the 2011 American Community Survey, men made up almost 10 percent of the registered nurses in the United States in 2011, up from just 2.7 percent in 1970. A similar increase was seen in licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, with the percentage of men in those disciplines rising from 3.9 percent in 1970 to 8.1 percent in 2011.

That influx of men is considered an excellent development by many in the profession, as a greater diversity of experiences brings welcome understanding to a profession that is requires empathy.

"The more diverse our profession gets, the better it is for patients," Karen Daley, president of the American Nurses Association told USA Today. "It's very important that our diversification reflects what is happening in the larger population."

This article is sponsored by Western Governors University, a nonprofit, accredited, online university. WGU offers online RN to BSN, BSN to MSN, and RN to MSN degree programs to working nurses who already have a current RN license. To find out more, please visit

Rate this article: 
No votes yet