I don’t want a male nurse taking care of me
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.
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).
By Sean Dent