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I don’t want a male nurse taking care of me

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This is always a hot debate out there in the circle of the nursing field (career). Do male nurses get ‘refused’ a lot from patients? Meaning, do patients refuse to be cared for by a male nurse, simply because we are men?

For some strange reason this topic seems to blur together with some of the other ‘male nurse myths’ out there. The two that come to mind are the ‘doctor = male & nurse = female’ myth and the ‘men don’t have the compassion to be a nurse’ myth.

I’m not even gonna try and talk about those two myths, they are so far ‘out there’ that they aren’t worth addressing.

I do however love to shed a little bit of light on the ‘refusal’ topic.

Here are some facts. Yes, I have been refused by patients on a handful of occasions. Yes, I have been refused by patients because I was of the male gender. Did I get offended, upset or angry? Only the very first time.

The very first time I was ‘refused’ I had only been an RN for less than 6 months. I think I had been off orientation in the ICU maybe a month or two (can’t quite remember). It was a NOC shift. I honestly cannot remember why this patient was even admitted to the ICU, what I do know is that her medical illness is not the reason why I was refused.

It was her comfort level.

Not her comfort in my abilities, her comfort in feeling vulnerable. She was not comfortable sharing or exposing her personal challenges with me. I won’t expand on those topics, but lets just say she was more comfortable having a fellow female handle her challenges.

It wasn’t the charge nurse that told me. It wasn’t the nursing supervisor that told me. It was the patient who told me. When I introduced myself, and informed her I would be taking care of her, she politely asked if she could have a woman instead of a man as her nurse.

She wasn’t rude. She wasn’t offensive. She was honest.

I walked out of the room feeling dejected and honestly quite pissed off? I relayed this to my charge nurse who simply asked me one question. “How would you feel if the roles were reversed? How would you feel having a female nurse care for you with those type of challenges”?

It was like a slap in the face.

I realized at that moment how selfish I was being, and that I wasn’t doing a very good job at being her advocate. I was too busy thinking about myself.

I walked back into the room and kindly explained that she would have a new nurse assigned to her care for the evening per her request. I bashfully walked out of the room and my attitude toward my patients was forever changed.

Sure there have been instances since then that have been offensive, degrading and down right ignorant. Some of these patients changed their mind and accepted me as their nurse, while others have not.

When I encounter this type of challenge in my practice, ever since that day, I have always asked myself how would I feel? If the opportunity presents itself, I always try to ask and investigate the details of their ‘refusal’. I find it a chance to educate them on how male and female nurses have no differences when providing the care they need. I try to understand their comfort level and do my best to lessen or even eliminate their anxiety. What I don’t ever try to do is influence or convince them that they are wrong.

It’s their care, not mine. It’s their choice, not mine. I’m just glad they felt comfortable enough to be honest about their feelings instead of being uncomfortable or even afraid of the nursing care they would receive.

In the end, we are their advocate. Even if that means stepping aside.

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Sean Dent

Sean Dent is a second-degree nurse who has worked in telemetry, orthopedics, surgical services, oncology and at times as a travel nurse. He is a CCRN certified critical care nurse where he's worked in cardiac, surgical as well as trauma intensive care nursing. After five years practicing as an RN, Sean pursued and attained his Masters of Science in Nursing. Sean currently practices as a Board Certified Acute Care Nurse Practitioner (ACNP-BC) in a Shock Trauma urban teaching hospital. He has been in healthcare for almost 20 years. He originally received a bachelor's degree in Exercise and Sport Science where he worked as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC).
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12 Responses to I don’t want a male nurse taking care of me

  1. Lou Burris

    I never really understand this view. I may have skills and experiences beyond some of my peers and still am treated this way. I think I have proven many times to be able to provide the best care available, and this still happens after 30 plus years. Sad.

  2. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @Lou sorry to hear it still happens, thanks for sharing and best of luck.

  3. Robert McLaughlin

    Not even once in my 32 years as a RN have I been refused r/t gender.

  4. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @Robert Glad to hear! Thanks for sharing!

  5. Monica

    I work in a long term care facility where there are several male CNAs (no male nurses). We have a few female residents who refuse to let males do cares for them. All the ladies are polite about it; it’s mostly just that generation. They prefer women because that is what they grew up with. It got each of the men when they were first told this, but it doesn’t even phase them anymore.

  6. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    @Monica I would agree, that is very common with the older generation – and quite honestly makes complete sense.

  7. Alan

    In my 23 years as a nurse I have been refused a couple of times by older ladies and from those with Islamic faiths. But I have also seen male patients refuse to have females care for them as many, or even more times.

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      @Alan, very good point. The tables very easily turn.

  8. petejackson2010 Student

    How do you not understand the perspective from the patient’s point of view? For most people in a hospital or with hospice care, its a very difficult time for them. Its not like they are asking for another waiter in a restaurant. People should feel comfortable with those individuals who are going to be helping them in very “intimate” ways. The whole point of nursing is to provide patients with comfort and if it puts them at ease to simply have a nurse or a doctor of whatever gender they desire (assuming someone else is available) let them have it without taking it so personally. This is about the patient, not your ego.

    • Sue H

      Bingo! Each patient is different, you do not know the circumstances on why she may have rejected you. I will always refuse a male nurse because of my past hisory of sexual abuse. The last time I was at the hospital for an outpatient procedure, I experienced extreme anxiety that I might be assigned a male nurse. It doesn’t matter to me if the male nurse is kind, compassionate, skillful and whatever. They cause me FEAR. Nurses are there to help you get well, not cause emotional and psychological distress. If the patient refuses care from you, deal with it.

  9. Nurse Rene RN

    I once managed to get into a truly weird conversation with a male OB/GYN who stated that: ‘Women should not have female doctors. A woman should NOT be looking at another womans’ prlivate parts’. I swear.
    So, I asked him this: ‘Given that vein of Logic, it is reasonable that only FEMALES should be Urologists.who take care of MeN.’
    Never did get an answer for that one.

  10. thursday

    I have been refused, or have been kindly asked if a female can provide the intimate care. Not a problem. I am continually dismayed at my coworkers presupposition that my patient doesn’t want me involved BEFORE the patient has even met me! I continually witness female nurses NOT giving a second thought to the dignity of the male patient, but are QUICK to protect the female. I struggle with this daily, internally. I hesitate to verbalize this, even anonymously online, because every time I do, it gets taken out of context, and then it gets derailed. I don’t desire to be “in the females business.” The worst situation I had was when a female arrived in ER, I went to Triage and bring her back, and the very first words out of her mouth were, “great, I get a male nurse.” That HURT like crazy. How would a female nurse feel receiving that response? So let’s be willing to “walk in these shoes also.” I cannot help but state that there is much disparity and inconsistencies in this area, at least this is what I have witnessed.