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

Thomas Northcut | Digital Vision | Thinkstock

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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