The Discrimination Against Male Nurses: A Look from Antiquity to the Modern Era

Male discrimination in 21st century

There is a great deal of discrimination against male nurses. It begins in the classroom for most male nursing students, and it continues for most of their professional lives. It manifests itself both financially and socially. However, at one point in history, male nurses were actually the norm.

Nursing began in ancient Rome as a male profession. During this time, groups of men organized to give medical treatment to citizens who were suffering from diseases. Through the years from antiquity to the modern era, male nurses worked primarily on battlefields. However, during the American Civil War, women began to help with nursing wounded soldiers.

Women, unlike their male counterparts, were an anomaly on the battlefield. Thus, they were viewed as brave just for being present. As women continued to nurse even after the war ended, they began to form professional organizations. In the 1800’s, female nurses formed the Nurses Associated Alumnae which is now known by the name the American Nurses Association. At the beginning of the following century, in 1901, they formed the United States Nurses Corp. During the first years of these organizations’ existence, they did not allow men to become members. During this time period, the nursing stereotypes of nurses as women began to form.

The nursing stereotypes continued to exclude men as they developed. Nurses were expected to be patient, and caring whereas men where assumed to be hard minded, quick thinking, decisive, and strict. For years, the Victorian stereotypes of men have continued to flourish. Thus, men were expected to not be nurturing. Although both the nursing stereotypes and the general stereotypes about men have waned over the last decade, they continue to be strong in the minds of many people. These stereotypes add to the discrimination against male nurses.

When a man decides to become a nurse, he will likely face discrimination from the moment he announces his decision. Many people do not view nursing as an appropriate field for men to work in. They may openly mock a man for his decision. Once the man begins to study nursing, he will find subversive discrimination against male nurses in his textbooks. The books will normally make reference to all nurses as female. However, that fact is no longer true. The professional organizations that were mentioned above opened their groups to men in the 1930’s, and now, roughly five percent of nurses are males. The textbooks, however, do not recognize this shift. They usually only refer to men as doctors or patients.

Once the man begins his professional career, he will continue to face discrimination against male nurses. In some cases, he will not be able to work in his desired department. For instance, labor and maternity wards, routinely do not allow male nurses. At times, this is a reflection of hospital policy, and at other times, it is due to the request of certain patients. In addition, studies show that male nurses experience low job satisfaction, and they also leave their profession at higher rates than their female counterparts.

However, in spite of discrimination against male nurses, men are joining the field at record rates. It is a field that offers comparatively high pay, room for job advancement, and the potential for high satisfaction.

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