Nursing as a Female Dominated Profession

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The nursing profession is currently a female dominated field, with about a 13% male prevalence in the U.S. This represents an increase over the last few decades, taking us back to 1860’s when the female dominance began. The cause for this goes back to Nightingale’s formal training for female nurses, that saw a large number of women trained as nurses with a negligent amount of training availed to men. The society’s perception that men are less compassionate and caring in comparison to women has largely contributed to this, among other stereotypes that men pursuing nursing have been faced with. The male nurses who have made it into the field, however, have received better pay and sometimes have gained over-representation in leadership and even promoted more easily. This, in addition to the discrimination and wrong perception of the male nurse, is among the problems that need to be addressed in nursing. The future is bright for men in nursing since many initiatives are being done to include and support them as they join this female-dominated profession.

Does a Nurse Have to be Female?

The nursing profession has over the years been dominated by the female gender, and even though there are a good number of male nurses today, nursing is still a predominantly female profession. Among the questions this raises is, how did it end up that female nurses are the majority? Are there any gender-related factors associated with nursing that have made the profession more favorable to the female than the male gender? What are the conditions like for men who are trying to penetrate this female-dominated profession? Is there need for the trend to change, and if so, how would the field of nursing and medicine benefit from having more male nurses? This paper seeks to answer these and other questions related to gender and nursing, to prompt an understanding of the current situation and possibly look into what the future will be or should be for the betterment of the nursing field.

            It is said that women were crucial in the founding as well as the evolving of the nursing profession (Monroe & Kroning, 2015). In the early times when nursing was coming up, women were assigned as nurses due to their ability to take care of and nurture their own babies. The assumption was that the same way they took care of their children would be the same way they would handle the sick or the injured. During times of war, nurses were relied on to deliver care to soldiers. History has it, however, that there still were male nurses as far back as the Civil War, taking care of the wounded and the sick. Florence Nightingale, the British woman who started nurse education programs in England, is recognized for having come up with principles (Nightingale Principles) on the education and development of nurses which were used quite widely in the development of hospital-based training schools for nursing; Monroe & Kroning (2015). In the 1890’s when the profession acquired better organization through the emergence of nursing associations, nursing remained as female-dominated, with most schools refusing to admit men; only a few schools would admit them (American Nursing: An Introduction to the Past, n.d.).

            Basically, it is the assumption that women have a greater capability to nurture and offer care to people that have caused the female dominance in the nursing profession. Others add dependence and submission to the traits that qualify women for nursing (Evans, 1997). The question that would be posed here is whether the said traits are what make the practice of nursing possible, and if that is the case, only women can handle that. The nursing profession has a variety of roles that include specialties in different areas such as clinical nursing, midwifery, dialysis, anesthetist and so on. With proper training, no person who is passionate about nursing would fail to discharge their duties as required of them, whether they are male or female. In fact, it is noted that males who make it in nursing have quickly gained the more specialized areas of nursing (Evans, 1997).

It was definitely not a prudent choice for schools to fail to admit people who were interested in nursing training because of their gender. That has been changing since there is currently a good number of male nurses penetrating the profession in comparison to previous times, and the growth continues slowly but surely. This is an improvement, but the issue of concern is the experience that these men have had both in training for and in practicing nursing. Evidence has it that stereotypes that were there in earlier years are still prevalent. The perception by society has been that nursing still is a more suitable profession for women, because of the stereotype that men are less caring and compassionate when compared to their female counterparts. Another stereotype is that male nurses are weak or gay; Monroe & Kroning (2015).

Currently, male nursing students are still facing more challenges in comparison to their female counterparts in the course of their training. These students are more likely to encounter perceptions that impact negatively on their self-esteem. They have also lacked mentorship and role model who would guide them in progressing in their career (Carson-Newman University, 2018). wilAs efforts are made and as the trends indicate a rising number of male nurses in the profession, much as possible should be done to make the men feel like part of the system all the way from training into when they are absorbed in the workplace. When they feel they are accepted and seen more like nursing students as opposed to male nursing students, they are more likely to be comfortable as they progress further into their career. Support structures for their learning, incorporated early in training programmes could be one way to achieve this.

Male nurses have faced other biases and have experienced more strict levels of discipline than the female ones. Gender bias has also been found in the nursing education and in institutions, with a conflict about the role and image of nursing (Monroe & Kroning, 2015). It is clear that it has not been easy for the male nurse, and unless the situation changes, the perception in the society favoring female nurses is still prevalent. Studies show that there are more men than women nurses leaving the profession (Zamanzadeh, Negarandeh, Valizadeh, Monadi, & Azadi, 2013). This will need to be addressed if the current gender disparity is to be addressed. One of the ways this can be done is by demonstrating the effectiveness of the male nurse by giving them a chance to do their work and judge them based on the results rather than on stereotypes. Another way would be by making the conditions favorable both in training and in practice so that a male nurse feels accepted and appreciated in delivering their work. Most importantly, the field should make deliberate moves to attract men to the profession, such as that made by Coventry University in the UK, which has provided a 1,000-Euros-a-year bursary to male nursing students. Raising awareness on what nursing entails, as well as the wide choice of careers available in nursing, could be among the ways to do make that happen; Kendall-Raynor (2017).

As much as efforts are being made to incorporate the male gender in nursing, there are other concerns on this move. Some people seem to like to move into an area not generally regarded as an area of strength in an attempt to seek an advantage. According to Evans (1997), the entrance of men into the nursing profession does not quite signify the integration of masculine and feminine gender roles. Instead, it has been a strategic move by male nurses to promote themselves in the career by distancing themselves from their female colleagues and the feminine image of nursing, in order to elevate their prestige and power. There is evidence to suggest that the small number of men in nursing has gained privileged positions in relation to their women counterparts. Most prestigious positions are in fact occupied by men (Zamanzadeh, Negarandeh, Valizadeh, Monadi, & Azadi, 2013). Male nurses earn more, are overrepresented in leadership positions and are on many occasions employed in nursing specialty areas (Monroe & Kroning, 2015). The idea of tokenism seems to have taken root in this field, whereby the minority are given special and privileged status. This pattern is aided by a culture in institutions that promote male advantage, or even by women who seek to nurture the careers of their men colleagues either consciously or otherwise (Evans, 1997).

While the attempt to bring the male gender on board in nursing is concerned, these issues need to be addressed. All nurses should be treated according to the standards of performance expected of them, as opposed to what gender they are. After all, if the man will gain an unmerited advantage because of belonging to the minority, there is no longer a common ground for the evaluation and growth of individual nurses as well as the profession. This issue can as well be addressed when the number of men increases, to the extent that they are no longer a minority but are evaluated on equal ground with the female nurse, with equal salaries and opportunity for promotion. Administrators can also develop more gender-sensitive methods of evaluation by rewarding both masculine and feminine characteristics; Monroe & Kroning (2015).

Having stated the above, there are many benefits of having men in nursing. While some female patients may decline being cared for by male nurses, some male patients express comfort and ability to open up to male nurses. Gender sensitivity by patients especially when dealing with private areas of the body is definitely an instance that would necessitate having both male and female nurses. Since the population is diverse, so should the nursing staff be. There is currently a shortage of nurses in the U.S., and this can be filled up by recruiting more male nurses. Not only will this rescue the situation in terms of numbers, but also in terms of diversity. In addition, men’s physical strength can be of help in taking care of patients such as when they need to be moved from one unit to another, as men are inarguably stronger than women (Monroe & Kroning, 2015). Looking further ahead into the future, the gender imbalance may be less and so will be the discrimination, and young men will have role models to look up to and emulate as they pursue a career in nursing.

Nursing is definitely a career or a potential one for many men in the future. Not only are organizations working towards making nursing to be recognized as a legitimate choice of career for men, but campaigns are also being done to attract men to this profession. This includes organizations offering scholarships to men for nursing training, recognizing good nursing schools for them and conducting advertising campaigns to appeal to men (Carson-Newman University, 2018). In addition to this, salaries are attractive, and so is the job opportunity and training. The barriers of discrimination and a lack of social support need to be dealt with to bridge the gap for men into nursing.

Having presented both sides of the coin, it is also important that men do not take advantage of their minority position to gain an advantage in the place of work, and neither should administrators allow this to happen. While it is true that if the imbalance ends there may be no need to treat the two genders differently, it is important that before then, there is no undue favoritism availed to the men who have made it into the profession so far. This will make nursing a diverse field enjoying the input of every qualified and well-trained nurse.

Annotated Bibliography

American Nursing: An Introduction to the Past. (n.d.). Retrieved from Penn Nursing:

The article provides a history of American nursing, describing both the current and past conditions of nursing in America. It describes how nursing came to be and how it has evolved up to this point, indicating important landmarks that have contributed to how nursing is practiced today. It is a helpful source in understanding nursing history.

Evans, J. (1997). Men in nursing: issues of gender segregation and hidden advantage. Journal of Advanced Nursing.

The author discusses how the increasing rate of men in nursing is not representative of a synergy of sex roles, but rather studies how men have gained an advantage in the field of nursing based on their minority position. The article shows how minority treatment has affected the female majority by taking a preference for the male minority in leadership and specialty areas. It is helpful in getting a different opinion on minority inclusion.

Kendall-Raynor, P. (2017, September 12). Addressing the gender imbalance in nursing. Nursing Standard.

The author writes about what Coventry University in the UK is doing to bring on board more male nurses, in this case by providing bursaries to male nursing students. He discusses the mixed reaction to that move but takes a stand that this is a necessary step. It is helpful in understanding the actual steps being taken, and the challenges faced in the attempt to include men in nursing.

Monroe, I., & Kroning, M. (2015). It is Time to Recruit More Men into the Profession of Nursing. RN Journal of Nursing.

The authors describe the history of women and nursing and how the current situation has come to be through analyzing various studies. It is a very helpful source in advocating for the role of men in nursing.

Nursing is the Career of the Future for Many Men. (2018, August 7). Retrieved from Carson Newman University Online:

This university website gives insight into the history, current and projects the future of the man in nursing. It is an important source in putting the future for the male nurse into perspective

Zamanzadeh, V., Negarandeh, R., Valizadeh, L., Monadi, M., & Azadi, A. (2013, December 9). Factors Influencing Men Entering the Nursing Profession, and Understanding the Challenges Faced by Them: Iranian and Developed Countries’ Perspectives. Retrieved from Nursing and Midwifery Studies:

This source is a study done on Iranian male nurses, seeking to find out the challenges they face. it indicates the challenges of role strain, social perception and discusses the caring abilities of men. This source is beneficial as it gives empirical evidence of male nurses' challenges.

October 05, 2023

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