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Male Nurses: Why Men Should Consider a Career In Nursing

Male Nurses: Why Men Should Consider a Career in Nursing

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For most of the nursing profession's history, men enjoyed significant representation as nurses. That's due in large part to religious orders that prepared monks to be caregivers, as well as the association between nursing and the military. But the presence of male nurses declined significantly around the time of the American Civil War. Why did men stop being nurses? And why have male nurses finally started to make a comeback?

During the Civil War, only men were permitted to serve in the military. The war saw an increased demand for nursing professionals, creating a shortage of male nurses, and well-trained women stepped in to take over. From that point until the 1970s, men in nursing were on the decline and represented a tiny percentage of nursing professionals – just 2.7% of nurses in 1970 were male.

However, the number of male nurses has risen since the 1970s. Today, the percentage of male nurses is over 13%. In some areas and specializations, male nursing is even more common: around 35% of active duty military nurses are male and 41% of registered nurse anesthetists are male. So why are men returning to nursing? And why should you consider being one of them?

6 Reasons to Consider Becoming a Male Nurse

The reasons men should consider a career in nursing are both practical (like career security and growth) and altruistic (the improved patient care that results from a diverse nursing staff). Some of the benefits of becoming a male nurse include:

A 360-Degree View on Patient Care

Nurses are responsible for a wide range of patient care concerns. These include delivering instructions for home therapies, coordinating complex treatment plans, providing practical medical care (like placing needles), and attending to patient needs in a hospital room. Few professions have such a wide range of competencies or responsibilities. That variety helps you develop a wide-ranging set of skills and can keep the job interesting over the long term.

A Dynamic Career With Room for Growth

In addition to the wide variety of daily tasks nurses perform, there are dozens of specializations and work arrangements. Men in nursing have tremendous choice about what type of nursing to pursue. That variety of specializations means you can find something that suits you, whether it's highly technical (like flight nursing) or more focused on patient relationships and care coordination (like a nurse navigator).

In addition, nursing allows you to work full-time, part-time, or even on an occasional "per diem" schedule to accommodate other interests and obligations like raising children or military service. There are even travel nursing positions that allow you to travel frequently while learning new skills. Learn more about the pros and cons of nursing schedules.

Improved Patient Experience

Many patients feel more comfortable disclosing symptoms or asking questions of professionals who they feel represent them, especially for "embarrassing" or particularly personal conditions. A diverse nursing staff – with nurses of all ages, sexes, and identities – makes it easier for patients to clarify their needs and get the right care. Increasing the number of men in nursing is a crucial part of that diversity initiative.

Earning Potential and Career Stability

Like most health care jobs, nursing offers incredible career stability. There will always be demand for health care and, consequently, for nurses. In addition to job security, nursing offers the possibility of good earnings and valuable job benefits. On average, nurses across specializations earned a median salary of $77,600 in 2021, but some specializations earn much more. Male nurse anesthetists, for example, earn over $150,000 per year, on average.

Unfortunately, even nursing has a gender pay gap that favors men. It's often easier for men to get promotions and make their way into the highest-earning specialties than it is for women. That's something the industry still needs to solve. Right now, men are overrepresented in the highest paid specialties, compared to their overall numbers in the nursing population.

Nurses Are Respected Health Care Professionals

Nurses are no longer viewed as subordinate roles to physicians or medical specialists. The modern nurse is an invaluable part of any health care environment. Men in nursing can take pride in being part of a health care team with a different, equally important role to other health care providers.

Learn Practical Skills for Life

Becoming a male nurse offers benefits outside of the workplace. The skills and medical knowledge you'll learn as a male nurse are useful in other areas of life. If you enjoy the outdoors, for example, your nursing expertise can help you tend to injuries on a wilderness trail. Likewise, compared to men without nursing training, male nurses are better equipped to evaluate their own children’s injuries and illnesses, care for their aging parents, or help others in their community.

Nursing Is a Growing Profession for Men in Health Care

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The presence of men in nursing has seen a boom in the last 40 years – the number of male nurses today is ten times what it was in the 1970s and male nurses are in demand at hospitals and clinics. The hands-on benefits of nursing, from improving patient outcomes to rapid career advancement, make nursing an appealing path for men pursuing health care jobs.

Considering a career in nursing? Learn more about what ANA can offer nursing students.

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The American Nurses Foundation is a separate charitable organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The Foundation does not engage in political campaign activities or communications.

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