Increasing Gender Diversity through Innovations in Nursing Education

Jan 20, 2012, 1:00 PM, Posted by Brent MacWilliams


Donna Shalala stated at the IOM Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health hearings that accelerated nursing programs could be a strategy to increase the number of men in nursing.

She’s right.

At the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, we’ve implemented an accelerated degree nursing program, and it is drawing in male students at a rate that is double the national average.

The program is called the Accelerated Online Bachelors to BSN (ACCEL). It is currently being evaluated as a potential exemplar for nursing education by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Evaluating Innovations in Nursing Education (EIN) program. Since 2003, the ACCEL option has offered students a technology-rich, immersive online learning environment coupled with a unique precepted clinical experience.

The ACCEL October 2011 cohort is 20 percent male—a typical percentage for the ACCEL option and for accelerated programs across the country. A 20 percent male student population is double the average number of men typically enrolled in more traditional nursing programs. Men currently comprise 10 percent of the national population of registered nurses, surveys show.

Innovative programs such as accelerated nursing programs are having a positive effect on access to the nursing profession, nursing scholars have found. It’s a pleasant surprise to the nursing community; the link was not anticipated when accelerated nursing programs were originally designed.

Men who are older and who are looking for new and more rewarding careers often gravitate to accelerated nursing programs. In addition, men who have had role models who are nurses and who have already earned academic degrees also gravitate to accelerated degree nursing programs.

That is good news for the profession. Older men appear to be better able to deal with and move past the stigma of being a man in a female-dominated profession. Still, we need more research to better understand why men gravitate to accelerated programs.

Accelerated nursing programs like the Accelerated Online Bachelors to BSN (ACCEL) will help the nursing community reach two important goals. They will help meet the IOM report’s recommendation to increase the proportion of nurses with baccalaureate degrees to 80 percent by 2020. And second, they will help the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) reach its goal of increasing the percentage of men in nursing to 20 percent by 2020.

Both of these metrics appear to be attainable if forward thinking organizations like the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation support programs that increase the quality of nursing education and promote diversity.

What do you think about a more gender diverse nursing workforce? If you are a student or a nurse who was in or graduated from an accelerated nursing program, we would love to hear from you. Register below to leave a comment.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF Human Capital Blog. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the authors.