In the world of nursing, there are far more women than there are men… but why? We’re taking a closer look at this gender disparity to see why male nurses are noticeably absent from the healthcare arena — and what can be done to fix it.
Nursing by the Numbers
According the the United States Bureau of Labor, women comprise approximately 91% of today’s nursing pool — a staggering predominance. But don’t count the guys out just yet. The number of male nurses has actually tripled since 1970, soaring from 2.7% to 9.6% over the last five decades. Several factors are believed to have contributed to this increase, such as high nursing wages, strong job security and reduced gender stereotyping.
Despite the growing influx of male nurses, there’s certainly room for improvement. Men are noticeably absent in several other female-dominated healthcare professions, as well:
- Physical therapy (36% men)
- Social work (18% men)
- Massage therapy (11% men)
- Occupational therapy (6% men)
- Dietetics/nutrition (3% men)
Where are the Male Nurses?
While women dramatically outnumber men in the nursing field, men are represented more in specific nursing specialties known for their larger salaries. (In the United States, a higher percentage of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are men — and CRNAs enjoy an average annual salary of $164,030. Similarly, male nurses are more likely to hold doctoral degrees.)
There are male nurses in every nursing specialty from obstetrics and geriatrics to sexual assault examiners, but certain specialities seem to attract a larger number of men.
Men make up a larger percentage of military nurses and account for over 30% of the nurses serving in the Army, Air Force and Navy. Military nurses enjoy additional benefits such as student loan forgiveness, housing allowances and affordable insurance plans on top of their competitive take-home pay.
Male nurses also make up the majority of flight nurses on medevac helicopters — 53%, to be exact — and may be drawn to more daring nursing positions in general.
How to Bring More Men Into The Field
The American Association for Men in Nursing is the leading advocacy group paving the way for more men to enter into the nursing field, and AAMN’s current goal is to raise the percentage of men in nursing from 10% to 20% by the year 2020.
Reaching out to male students in junior high and high schools around the country is an excellent way to let young men know the many benefits of working as a nurse. These outreach efforts can also extend through college (and after). Excelsior College, for instance, has a partnership with the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) that’s aimed at increasing the percentage of men in nursing programs.
Furthermore, males are much more likely to enroll in nursing programs as gender biases and stereotyping continue to diminish.
5 Reasons Men Should Consider a Nursing Career
- You’ll be in demand.
According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, nursing is expected to grow by 15% between the years 2016 and 2026.
- You’ll make great money.
The BLS also reports that the average income for registered nurses is $68,450 per year (with the mean hourly wage reported to be $32.91). That’s excellent money for any gender, and it’s an excellent perk of the job.
- You’ll offer a unique skillset.
Male nurses bring a lot of unique abilities to this field, from upper body strength to the ability to relate better to some male patients. Also, male nurses are more likely to ask for raises than their female counterparts, which means that an increase in male nurses is likely to result in an increase in nursing salaries across the board.
- You can pursue a wide range of specialties.
Whether you’re drawn to pediatrics or dream of working inside the operating room, there are countless nursing specialties worth considering. Love animals? Consider working as a veterinarian. Prefer a little more adrenaline? Consider a career as an ER nurse. The choice is totally up to you, and there’s no shortage of options for men and women alike.
- You’ll open doors.
Despite cultural changes and shifting societal attitudes toward gender roles, some stereotyping persists. But as more and more men enter the nursing profession, these biases will continue to fade. That means you’ll play an important role in eliminating stifling stereotypes and encouraging men to follow their career interests.
Are you a male nurse, or are you currently studying to become one? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!