Sunday, June 4, 2023

Number of male nurses increasing despite stigma

By Manon Bullock

Health care has always been one of the fastest growing industries, and nurses have consistently had a low unemployment rate compared to other professions. Chris Burns — assistant professor and course lead of pathophysiology-online at Marian University Leighton School of Nursing, and family nurse practitioner at Hancock Immediate Care — says a predicted shortage of nurses has attracted men to the occupation. Many schools have increased their efforts to recruit more men into nursing to increase the number of employable workers in the field. According to the American Community Survey, 9 percent of all nurses in 2011 were men. In 1970, 2.7 percent of registered nurses were men. Historically, the emergence of modern medicine in the 1900s brought about legal barriers to the entry of men in the nursing field, which created a stigma of male nurses. “When I was pursuing biochemistry as an undergraduate student, there were very few male nurses, but even then I thought it was odd,” Burns said. “I was raised on the idea of seeing TV nurses.” Burns did not plan to become a nurse. He was pursuing his R.N. certification on the way to becoming a physician when his wife, who is also a nurse, indicated that nursing might be the right field for him. “My epiphany was that there is much more to nursing. Analysis, assessment and application of sciences, pathophysiology, pharmacology, and all these were rolled up into one. Many nurses have a teacher’s heart. As a scientist with some teaching background, it fit perfectly,” he said. Darrien Curry had similar aspirations of pursuing medicine. He attended the health professions program at Arsenal Technical High School in Indianapolis and always dreamed of becoming a physician. He is currently pursuing his Associate of Nursing degree at Harper College in Palatine, Illinois, and will go on to obtain his R.N. degree. Curry said he was not surprised to find that there are many male nurses in his program. After previously working as a certified nursing assistant, then a qualified medical assistant and now a student nurse at Alexia Brothers Behavioral Health Hospital in Illinois, he has noticed a demand for male nurses. “Some managers prefer men because we are very logical and can detach emotion when we need to,” he says. “We also have the physicality to be able to properly function in an environment that requires physical exertion.” As a nurse practitioner with the opportunity to see patients and diagnose, treat and educate them, Burns, who has a master’s in nursing, said he enjoys the autonomy that comes with his vocation. “I think male nurses have it all, because you can do many things,” he says. “There is a tremendous amount of complexity and analysis of thought, and you can also specialize.” The increase of male nurses may also help to decrease the number of men who wait too long to receive health care. Curry says male nurses may be able to more easily relate to men, and their male patients may feel more comfortable with them. “Men can be just as compassionate as women but when men, especially, get a male nurse, they may take their diagnoses more seriously,” Curry said. Both Burns and Curry said they find their work very rewarding. “I tell my students that they are going to have an intimate privilege of being in situations where and when people are vulnerable, and that is a tremendous responsibility,” Burns said. Both men are certainly glad to see the stigma of male nurses disappearing. “Being a male nurse doesn’t emasculate you as a man. It’s not shameful. It’s the same in every field,” Curry said. “Anybody can be anything.” I

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