Oct 11 2011
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A Male Nurse's Experience: "I Have Been Welcomed by Patients"

Brandon Echtenkamp is a New Careers in Nursing scholar, a program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.

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I would wager that any male who has contemplated a career in nursing has considered the stigma of it being a woman’s career. I certainly did before I began my nursing program. However, those thoughts were exceedingly transient in nature. After being exposed to the nursing world and being able to observe men first-hand in the nursing role, I could see that gender made no difference. Based on my experiences, female nurses have been incredibly open to sharing their nursing role with men. Men have become integrated into the field in such a way that it is becoming typical to see male nurses on most hospital units. Of course, as males, we are still the minority, but great strides are being made.

The patients I have had the pleasure of caring for throughout my clinical experiences as a nursing student have been generally accepting of a male nurse caring for them. The one exception to this would be during my mother/baby rotation where I was welcomed by patients as a nursing student, but subsequently turned down as a student caregiver upon the discovery of my male status. This was very frustrating to me as a nursing student eager to learn. However, these were only my experiences, and it seemed as though patients readily accepted other males in my nursing cohort, which gives me hope that this sort of discrimination is not a common occurrence and was more coincidental in my case.

Despite my setbacks in my mother/baby rotation, this has certainly not been the case in other areas of nursing. My presence has been well received by patients I have cared for. This is not to say that my being a male nursing student goes without scrutiny. Although welcomed by patients, they are often somewhat confused at seeing a male nurse.

Frequently, I am not referred to as the patient’s nursing student, but as their male nursing student. Individuals still feel the need to make the gender distinction, as if my being a male has any bearing on the care I provide. Furthermore, I am often questioned by patients about when I will be starting medical school, assuming that my receiving a nursing degree is a stepping-stone to a career in medicine. I gently reply that my career interests lie within the nursing field alone, and explain that nursing and medicine, although related, are separate entities. It is during these times I welcome the opportunity to explain a male’s role in nursing being no different from that of our female counterparts. I proudly use these occasions to express my passion for this challenging and rewarding profession, which is view shared by other men, just like me.

As a male nursing student, I feel I have been exposed to many of the pros and cons of being a male in the nursing field. What I can say is that the pros by far outweigh any of the insignificant cons I have encountered. Male nurses are welcomed by patients and health care workers, alike. Male nurses are beginning to become so common that often times, patients are indifferent to their nurse’s gender. Based on my experience, the fact that they have a caring and competent caregiver by far outweighs any gender issues.

I feel that overcoming the concerns men may have about gender discrimination in the nursing field is the main hurdle that must be overcome when deciding to enter the field. Once this initial barrier is overcome, men can transition into the field seamlessly. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) program, which has helped fund my nursing education, plays a pivotal role in making the transition into nursing even easier.

The NCIN scholarship program has a profound influence on minorities who already hold bachelor’s degrees and have a desire to become nurses. Nursing schools that are funded with NCIN grant money award scholarships of $10,000 for select students entering an accelerated bachelor’s or masters level nursing program. As a means to increase the diversity in nursing, one of the main selection criteria is being a minority, a category into which men certainly fit. Men who have a desire to enter the field have a myriad of considerations as they make the decision to change their career. Financial issues imposed by nursing programs are likely a main concern for these students as they consider the cost feasibility of earning another degree. The RWJF NCIN scholarship program helps me and many other students bear this financial burden by significantly reducing the cost of attending nursing school.

As such, men should be encouraged to look into this scholarship option as they make the decision to enter the wonderful world of nursing – a decision that they will not regret.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) scholarship program is a national program of RWJF and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN). The program is designed to: help alleviate the national nursing shortage; increase the diversity of nursing professionals; expand capacity in baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs; and enhance the pipeline of potential nurse faculty.

See Echtenkamp’s submission to I Believe This About Nursing.

Read a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation web story on men in nursing.

Tags: Health Care Workforce, Leadership Development, Men and boys, New Careers in Nursing, Nurses and Nursing, Nursing, Voices from the Field