There’s a major discrepancy between men and women when it comes to going to the doctor. Stephen Ferrara, a male nurse practitioner, associate dean of clinical affairs and associate professor at Columbia University’s School of Nursing, and president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, said he has heard men, including himself, use just about every possible excuse to get out of going to the doctor.
They often claim they can’t take time off work or wait for common problems to turn into painful conditions. He said men tend to minimize their health issues and avoid seeking treatment unless “something is falling off.”
A recent study from the Cleveland Clinic found that 72% of men would rather do household chores than see a primary care doctor. Some men may be hesitant to go to the doctor because they genuinely believe they don’t need medical care, but that’s not exactly true.
A study from Orlando Health involving around 900 men found that 33% of respondents felt that they didn’t need regular check-ups, 38% said they look to social media for medical advice, and nearly two-thirds said they believed they were “naturally healthier than most people in general.”
“It is statistically impossible for the majority of men to be healthier than the majority of men,” said Dr. Thomas Kelley, family medicine specialist with Orlando Health Physician Associates. He said this could be a sign that health problems in many men are going undetected.
As a male nurse, Ferrara is trying to set a good example for men everywhere by showing them they don’t have to avoid talking about their health. He said it’s all about breaking down barriers that tend to stand in their way.
“I like to think that my male colleagues and I can create an especially safe and comfortable space for a male to share what ails or worries him. And, the truth is, once he is in the office, behind closed doors, the barriers tend to fall,” he told MSNBC.
He said the only people who hear more excuses from men in terms of why they can’t go to the doctor are the family and friends taking care of them. According to a study from Aflac insurance, over half the men surveyed said it was their wife, girlfriend, or mother who finally convinced them to go to the doctor.
Ferrara believes it’s important for men to develop lasting relationships with their healthcare provider, so they feel more comfortable talking about personal issues. But families rarely see the same primary care doctor for years on end and many offices no longer keep detailed records for each patient. He also encourages men to use technology to keep in touch with their provider.
They can also take a survey or questionnaire to quickly diagnose symptoms of depression, a condition that often gets ignored in men due to stigma.
He also recommends meeting them halfway by increasing access to healthcare at places they already frequent, such as sporting events, car shows, bookshops, barber shops, and other local haunts.
He recently worked with a group known as Fans for the Cure, which partnered with the MLB to screen over 210 men for prostate cancer during a recent Yankees game. Most got the all-clear but 10% came back with abnormal results. The group recommended these men set up additional screenings and tests.
“That day was one of the highlights of my career,” Ferrera noted. “I was able to engage in straight talk with hundreds of men and get them help in an environment that they loved. And if that wasn’t reason enough to celebrate, in the bottom of the second inning Aaron Judge stepped up to the plate and clubbed a home run that would put him on the path to break his tie with Roger Maris and set the record for most home runs in a single season in the American League.”