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You’re a guy, you’re a nurse, so what?

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I read a great comment the other day on the Scrub’s Reader Poll by Nurse Alan. Struck by what he said concerning all the hoopla surrounding male nurses, I started to reflect more on the oddity of L&D and our sheer lack of nurse-dudes.

Teaching childbirth classes gives me a window into patient’s thoughts outside the unit before they are admitted. One question I always get is, “Are there any male nurses on the L&D floor providing care?” When I answer, “no”–because on our L&D we have all female nurses–I always get relieved feedback. When I counter with, “Well, what about the male doctors on the floor that will be delivering you?” They argue with, ‘Well, that’s totally different.”

What? I just don’t understand how? All that I can figure is that we nurses are still seen in a very functional, vocational, non-professional light. A doctor is a doctor whereas a nurse is an angel of mercy, beautiful, female, a helping hand to the doctor, a help-maid, etc, etc. You know, the old nurse-myth rears it’s ugly head again.

I’ll go as far as to say the proof of nurse-stigma is in L&D, where there males nurses are almost completely M.I.A. Labor nurses suffer from a stigma as well–maybe because we work in a predominately female area? Male nurses “shouldn’t be on an all-women’s unit” and labor and delivery nurses “have the easiest job in the hospital.” And if a male nurse is on L&D, then he “must be gay” because why would he ever want to “help all those mamas and babies.” I could scream at some of the comments!

So, while I totally agree with Alan, that sometimes we make so many distinctions over male and female nurses that we hurt the argument instead of help it, the bigger picture looks like this: we nurses are professionals. A nurse is a nurse no matter their sex, what floor they work on, whether they sit at a desk, teach at a nursing school, or code someone in a trauma bay. We deserve as much respect as physicians because we have EARNED that respect through our education and our hard, collaborative, evidence-based practice.

I will applaud the day when a male nurse walks onto my L&D floor because it will mean we are progressing and evolving even more as a profession. And I will support those people still advocating just for male nurses through their writing because I see their point: as registered nurses we ALL need recognition and NOT stigmatization, because we ALL are vitally necessary.

(Now guys, don’t you want to come work on L&D with me?)

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Amy Bozeman

Amy is many things: a blogger, a nurse, a wife, a mom, a childbirth educator. She started her journey towards a career in nursing when she got pregnant with her first child. After nursing school and studying "like she has never studied before" she entered the nursing profession eager to get her feet wet. The first years provided her with much exposure to sadness, joy and other complex human emotions. She feels that blogging is a wonderful outlet and a way for nurse bloggers to further build their community. Traditionally, midwives have handed down their skill set from midwife to apprentice midwife. She believes nurses have this same opportunity: to pass from nurse to new nurse the rich traditions of this profession.

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7 Responses to You’re a guy, you’re a nurse, so what?

  1. Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

    Amy, the irony of it all is that in nursing school I was leaning towards L&D and had an instructor pulling for me to work in L&D….
    then I went through my ICU rotation.
    I never looked back. Neither good or bad, was just what I wanted.

  2. thisearthlyride Student

    I loved my maternity clinical rotation, though I did find that I was subject to much more scrutiny than my female peers. Many patients refused to have me assigned to them, others agreed but were clearly uncomfortable.

    My first patient reluctantly told my instructor that I could work with her. I was with her through the entire process of labor, emergency c/s, and postpartum care. My instructor told me that when she asked my patient and her husband for feedback, they both said they felt badly that my gender was a consideration and that I had provided respectful and competent care.

    I really did love L&D, but I can’t imagine being subject to that type of scrutiny every day.

  3. Nurse Rene RN

    This is why I commented on the history of nursing being a predominately MALE profession until about the 1800s a few months ago.
    Among MANY older people, the Victorian mores still exist. And we are not going to CHANGE the way that they think about ‘womenfolk havin’ babies’ or other areas of practice.
    In some cultures or areas of the country men still don’t allow their wives to be seen by another man, even a doctor, for ‘female’ exams. And so we still see women dying of cervical or other ‘down there’ cancers for lack of preventive care here in the 21st Century.
    It is interesting when we remember that it was Male Doctors in Semmelweiss’ time who were spreading Childbirth Fever by not washing their hands!

  4. yokotjokro80

    I’m a male and I proud to be a nurse. I don’t care what people say about me I will give my best to take care my patient

  5. Ole walrus

    My first L and D rotation in nursing school, I was refused by the first two mothers in labor…..the third announced ” of course, my husband is a nurse!” ….made my day……
    I would love to work l and d , but EMS got me first……

  6. Ben Pillow

    I’m one of two Male L&D Nurses. With the exception of occasional cultural issues, we’re both well received by our patients. We do have some that accept us with some hesitation, but in the end they end up telling us how grateful they were to have us as their nurse. It’s by no means a laid back job, especially when the Triage is getting a bus load and you have a mother hours post birth who’d begun hemorrhaging. No two consecutive nights are the same.

  7. Alex Krampovitis

    Hi Amy, I accepted a position in L&D and start next week! I am excited to be part of such a large gender acceptance shift in our field! I worked as a PCA for over 5 years in SICU, ED, and psych within a magnet status, level 1 trauma hospitsl, and from that, decided early in nursing school that either NICU or L&D was where I would end up. Had a fantastic rotation in L&D and my professors nurtured my desire for that field. I was lucky I had that support. I look forward to being in this field and sharing my experiences throughout!