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Where are the guys?


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I’ve often wondered why there aren’t more men in nursing. Back when I graduated in 1983, about 2 percent of nurses were male.

Nowadays, they say it’s about 5 percent—not much progress toward gender balance. I have worked with only a few dozen men over the years, most of them decidedly straight, quite a few openly gay, one (that I knew of) who was transgendered and a few undecided—but who cares? What difference does it make? What is really mind-boggling is that there are not more men in nursing, still today. I once asked my friend Theo how he chose nursing.

“It drove my father crazy when I told him,” he said, “but I think he’s come around. I’ve always known I wanted to be a nurse. The guidance counselor at school spent two hours one day trying to get me to change my mind. He said, ‘Theo, what about medicine or law?’ But I didn’t want to be a doctor and I knew I wasn’t a good enough liar to be a lawyer!”

“Why aren’t there more men in nursing, Theo?”

“It’s different for gay men. We don’t feel we have to hide our soft, caring side, but most straight guys are afraid it will make people raise questions about their sexuality.”

Do you agree with Theo? Is it easier for gay men to be nurses? Harder for straight men to enter our profession?

The preceding  is an excerpt from The Making of a Nurse . Copyright © 2007 Tilda Shalof. Published by McClelland & Stewart Ltd. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

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Tilda Shalof
Tilda Shalof RN, BScN, CNCC (C) has been a staff nurse in the Medical-Surgical Intensive Care Unit at Toronto General Hospital of the University Health Network, for the past twenty-four years. She is also the author of the bestseller, A Nurse’s Story and an outspoken patient advocate, passionate nurse leader, public speaker, and media commentator. She lives in Toronto with her husband, Ivan Lewis and their two sons, Harry and Max. Learn more about Tilda and her books at

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