The masculinity of men in nursing

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Here I am revisiting yet another stereotype: the opinion that men in nursing are less “manly” than other men.

For some strange reason, some people feel that because I work in a predominantly female field, my “man card” was revoked.


Side note: I often wonder if this urban legend stems from the “male nurses are gay” stereotype.

So, back to my “man card.”

It seems that a new study, as mentioned in “Putting the stereotypes to bed: Study finds male nurses are MORE masculine than other men,” is out to debunk this humorous urban legend.

In this small study, researchers surveyed 109 current nursing students from 37 states. The subjects rated male nursing students as displaying more “manly” characteristics than male college students in majors other than nursing. This was a very limited study, but nonetheless is interesting to note.

Drawing from my own experiences as a nurse, I honestly can’t say my “masculinity” ever has been questioned. And no, after I passed my boards the masculinity police did not confiscate my “man card.” I didn’t become a nurse because I thought it was more or less manly than other professions; I made a conscious decision to impact lives. This urban legend, like all the others, is just a great conversation piece.

The take home message is this: To all the men out there who are considering this profession or are entering it, be prepared. The individuals that question your masculinity or believe in any of these other urban legends do not know us. And those that know us, know the difference.

Any of my fellow “masculine” nurses out there care to share your thoughts?

P.S. Be sure to read this with a thick dose of sarcasm.


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23 Responses to The masculinity of men in nursing

  1. AaronLPN LPN

    As a “guy” I was a little intimidated by the other nurses at first. I’m not a small guy, I have scars up and down my arms from my dozen years as a glass maker and I have tattoo’s as well. With my long scruffy goatee I look more like some grease bag deliquent than a “nurse.”
    What I found unsettling (and still do after 2 years of clincal practice) is that some female nurses STILL take the attitude I can’t be a “real” nurse becase I’m a male. Somehow, male’s can’t be compassionate, they can’t multi-task (a skill I perfected as a glass maker) they DO NOT show emotion and for some reason, their is a belief that no female patient will let them get near them. All complete rubbish I may add…..
    On the other side, I had an elderly female resident say to me one time “I don’t know what it is about you, but I just feel so safe and secure knowing your are here.” That was all was a real boost to me and it let me know I was doing something right!
    I know it must look fairly odd for me to be towering over some small, frail elderly lady with my arm supporting her as she walks down the hallway.
    Stereotypes be damned!

    • Sean Dent Scrubs Blogger

      Amen to that Aaron. Amen to that. I feel you pain about looks being deceiving.

  2. gmbiello

    You’re both dead on. I am a female nursing student and I absolutely hate when people (nurses & nonnurses) make snide comments about male nurses. IT DRIVES ME CRAZY! Males are just as much as healers as females, and I hate to say it, but sometimes better healers. Makes nurses rock! Also their strength is quite beneficial when transferring larger pts that would most likely take 3 or 4 female nurses (don’t misinterpret this some females are super strong too, but not like males). Lastly, I have experienced great compassion from a male nurse that was assigned to me during a past surgery as well as witnessed great compassion from a male nurse that was assigned to my mother during her surgery and lengthy recovery period. So my advise is to think before you speak, get valid evidence before you accuse or stereotype, and lastly if you come across one testy male nurse I’m sure he has a similar female counterpart so don’t be so quick to judge ALL male nurses based on one experience! Ok, off my soap box now.

    P.S. To all the male nurses out there, I salute you and are behind you all 100%!!

    • okie_goalie

      Thanks! I love being a nurse. There’s nothing more than making someone’s day go better in some way. Among my other activities (see above under ice hockey), I’m also a dad to 2 awesome kids and a clown with the Shriners. Just finished doing the Shrine circus here, love making all the people laugh and signing autographs. The best part, there was a whole group from a home here they all had Downs syndrome. They were the coolest people and the smiles when I took time to talk with them and sign their programs we golden. To me, that still falls under the banner of being a nurse- making someone’s day a little better!

  3. gmbiello

    Oopps sorry for the typos!

  4. cpldrp

    I am a nursing student, and about the “Man Card” thing. I am a former Corporal in the Marine Corps infantry. I first got interested in health care in Iraq doing Combat medicine. like taking care of bullet wounds, burns, Fragment wound from an IED. I know how I am and if someone gives me a hard time about being a nursing student it just show me that they are over compensating for something. Also as long as I am providing for my wife and son I don’t care what other people think. I want to be a flight nurse because I like working in high pressure jobs. So does anybody have any tips on becoming a flight nurse?

    • Granny RN RN

      To: cpldrp

      Flight Nursing is EXTREMELY competitive and vacancies tend to be rare and highly coveted because of this.
      Your experience as a Combat Medic is a big plus-be sure to emphasize that fact when you are ready to apply. And THANK YOU FOR SERVING!
      Now, this is the other part: you will need as much experience in ER/ICU as possible, preferably in a teaching hospital which has a ‘medevac’ flight department. You will need to have ACLS, PALS, and ATLS as well as a CCRN cert. if possible. If you are also an ACLS/ATLS Instructor you are a step up from the next candidate. I will assume that you are already in a BSN program as that is the minimum educational requirement. While you are a student be sure that you are always on time, alert and ALWAYS there to learn and ask questions-particularly from docs (they LOVE to show what they know!). When you are the Man in the field you will assume care of the patient and will be expected to ‘read’ X-rays and CT Scans because not every hospital can transmit images to your receiving MD. You will know what lab values and treatments are indicated and you will be the eyes and ears for your MD on the other end of the phone. TOGETHER you will make the ‘GO/NO GO’ decision when it is indicated.
      As you have no doubt seen by now, this will take quite a bit of time to ‘get there’. But, if that is where you are meant to be, it will all come together.
      And, as always, Semper Fi!

  5. cpldrp

    I am a nursing student, and about the “Man Card” thing. I am a former Corporal in the Marine Corps infantry. I first got interested in health care in Iraq doing Combat medicine. like taking care of bullet wounds, burns, Fragment wound from an IED. I know who I am and if someone gives me a hard time about being a nursing student it just show me that they are over compensating for something. Also as long as I am providing for my wife and son I don’t care what other people think. I want to be a flight nurse because I like working in high pressure jobs. So does anybody have any tips on becoming a flight nurse?

  6. okie_goalie

    I’ve only had one person seriously question me on this. I happened to have my laptop with me that night, showed him some pics of me playing ice hockey, including a couple of me in a good ol’ fashioned hockey fight. Asked him if he had anything he’d like to add.. He sort of just skulked off.

  7. rwaichele

    A lot of times male nurses are seen as bringing less drama to the work location. And I haven’t had my “man card” questioned but I have been asked by a female patient if she could sit on my lap while I did a chemstix…had to laugh. I get a lot of that from females and a lot of men would honestly rather deal with a “guy”

  8. htarceno RN

    As a psychiatric male nurse, who do you think is the FIRST person on the floor they call when a paient is becoming aggressive or violent? It usually takes security a couple of minutes to get there, which gives the patient time to seriously hurt someone. Also, I’ve seen male doctors leave the floor when a patient gets violent. I have helped save lives multiple times being the first responder and I’m proud of that.

    • Mark719

      When I worked in ER I used to be asked to break up fights or restrain aggressive male patients, no problem but once I was asked to break up 2 female patients fighting and I declined explaining that I wanted to keep the skin on my face!
      Same during my time on ICU & Neuro ICU myself and the other Male Nurse would get the aggressively confused patients or just plain aggressive patients more often then our Female Counterparts.
      Saying that I would also get more than my fair share of seriously ill patients to look after and loved every minute of it!

  9. edwardenos

    This is always an interesting and entertaining topic! One night at about 0300 I was at work and the girl nurses were chatting about who the gay male nurses were, whether they were “out” or not. They didn’t even mention me. So I said, “what about me?” They all just looked at me and said “You’ve got to be kidding…you are so not gay…” I guess my man card is intact still.

    • Mark719

      Not uncommon, I’ve had many a night shift when the Female Nurse would discuss which Male Nurses and which Male Doctors they would ‘do’.
      Further discussions on ‘how’, ‘where’, ‘with what’ & ‘how often’ would even make this old battle scarred soldier blush!!

  10. dcarter

    I gotta say as a male nurse, my only problem is that d/t working in long term care I’m often mistaken by family members and residents as either a doctor or as just some dude in the home…As for the “man card”, I’m a 7 yr army vet w/ 2 deployments to Kosovo and 1 to Iraq. I got into healthcare because I want to positively impact lives. I started off in the army as a scout which means little time not out on mission and having to do my work w/ little to no support. Sounds familiar as a nurse huh? Timelines, critical thinking, working w/ what you have, all old hat. I mention this too haters and they all seem to slink off into corners and let me be. Out of all the male nurses and nursing students I’ve met, only one has been gay and the rest have been ex-cops, ex-military, or production laborers. And we all still have our “man cards”…..

  11. I can honestly say that I have never been treated differently as a nurse because I’m a male. I sure have been sought out for my muscles, and have been awkwardly asked to find a female when a patient needed to get on or off a bedpan. (I’ve also been requested to do a man’s foley because he didn’t want a female to do it.) The sexuality issue has never been an issue, either. In fact, I have a better time working with some of the older docs. They give the females a hard time at every turn, but are very collegial with me.

    Personally, I don’t care if a colleague is male or female. What matters to me is their skill, competence, attitude, and their ability to work under pressure. Past that, they could be a lemur for all I care. Actually, I’d kind of like to work with a lemur. That would be cool!

  12. link955 LPN

    I’ve been doing this for a living for 35+ years. Back in the late 1970s, when I started, it was fairly common for me to have my sexuality questioned. Recently, with the right-wingers going on and on about gays, it’s been starting again. Finally, in a group of people, one insecure male asked me, “Nurse? You gay?” and something in my head snapped. I looked at him and said, “Well, Sparky, let’s examine this. My coworkers are women. My bosses are women. The ancillary staff is mostly female. Some of our doctors are women. The clerical staff is all female. But, I’m here because I’m looking to meet men. Uh huh. So, tell me, are you being obtuse for laughs, or are you just ******* stupid?” After the laughter from the others died down a little, I said, “Tell you what, genius. Call my two ex-wives or my current girlfriend and ask them if they think I’m gay.” I have noticed one thing: Women have never asked me that question. Never.

  13. zornowk

    I agree that most men who are nurses ARE more masculine then the average man. There’s a lot to be said for a man who is compassionate, skilled, and “manly”. The first thing that I feel should be done to make men more acceptable in our career is to drop the term “male nurse.” We don’t refer to any other professional as “male” or “female” executive, manager, CEO, etc. Why should nursing be any different? I have a great amount of respect for the men and women of the nursing profession and we should all be on the same level.

  14. comm8126 RN

    I am also a male nurse in a small community hospital and have noticed the lack of respect for male nurses, however, the way I found to combat this is to go in there and gain the respect and admiration of the PATIENTS. I could care less what the other nurses think about my “masculinity”. If my patients are happy and well cared for, then I have done my job well. Most female nurses come around to realize that the gender does not make the nurse, the caring makes the nurse. For all the men out there who wish to care for your fellow man, go for it. Do not let the doubters slow you down, instead go in there and prove them wrong. Nothing makes me feel better as a nurse than walking into a patients room and seeing them light up and say, “I’m so glad you’re my nurse, I know I’ll be alright now”. That is true masculinity. GOD bless ALL nurses and CNAs for we truely make a difference in the lives of those we serve.

  15. ds37814

    Dude, this group is part of the problem by virtue of it’s very nsme. “Male nurse” is demeaning and sexist. You’re promoting the stereotype you claim to abhor

    • Mark719

      I am proud to be a Male Nurse! I’m prouder of that than all my campaign medals & battle scars put together 😉

  16. Mark719

    Been Nursing for 30 years and my gender/sexuality has never been an issue or questioned.
    Even when looking after patients from different ethnic/religious backgrounds, Obstetric Dept etc
    Saying that just last week the Mom of an 8 year old girl I was treating exclaimed ‘your a Boy Nurse!’ when I introduced myself. Having served as an Army Combat Medic, Mountain Rescue Medic (battle & wilderness tested) I’ve been called many things but ‘Boy-Nurse’ is a first one on me 😉

  17. gl3

    As a Gay Man!! and Nurse for 25 years I have found your references to Gay Men in t his and other articles offensive!! You seem to promote negativity towards those of us who are gay;perhaps you havent realized it;therefore;wanted to point it out;hopefully you will find a positive way to advocate all Men Nursing