While nursing offers some compelling advantages for men, it doesn’t come without a few challenges. Chief among these are the misconceptions male nurses still have to dispel.
On the most basic level, men have been stereotyped as lacking the caregiving traits like compassion and empathy necessary for nursing. (Male nurses past and present put the lie to this notion.) Or that they chose nursing only because they couldn’t hack it in medical school.
“We are not doctor wannabes,” Hamilton says. “Every male nurse I know went into nursing because he wanted to be a nurse.”
Falletta takes this one step further, saying RNs have access to more knowledge and skills than ever before. This potential speaks to Falletta’s own passion for research and education, but it applies to the industry as a whole and can be especially attractive to lifelong learners.
“We’re doing more than we ever did,” Falletta says. “We’re stronger than we have ever been.”
That said, male nurses do face some limitations in the workplace. It might be necessary to explain yourself in certain situations, like Hamilton did when he was working as a nurse practitioner at a surgical practice. On more than one occasion, he said, he had to clarify that it was he who was the nurse practitioner and his female colleague was the doctor.
Then, of course, there are certain protocols that male nurses have to follow around female patients. Routine procedures like checking incisions or bathing female patients often require the presence of a chaperone, Hamilton says. And female patients may prefer or tend to be more comfortable with female nurses in the field of obstetrics and gynecology (OB/GYN) (although it is technically open to anyone).
To the latter issue, Falletta offers one possible solution: Male OB/GYN nurses could start their own practice with other like-minded professionals in the industry, which would attract a like-minded patient population.