male nurse

MALE NURSE| STEREOTYPES| 10 OMG! REASONS TO JOIN NURSING

As a male nurse in a female-dominated profession, you are on the other side of the sexual divide. Sometimes carrying out your duties might require an extra professional demeanor, especially in sensitive areas such as maternal and child health; lest your actions could be perceived as sexual and not professional. Whereas, a female nurse in a similar situation would be observed as being empathetic, caring and understanding.

Nursing is a profession of caring for others. However, you cannot be caring without altruistic love for people. Love, commitment, care, empathy, and sympathy are qualities paramount for the thriving of the nursing profession; and are also qualities that have been associated with womanhood, over time. Hence, nursing has been regarded as a feminine profession, but more so, because, it is a female-dominated one.

In recent times, nursing has come to be regarded as a profession that can be practiced by both sexes with little gender bias and nurse stereotypes. However, prejudices against male nurses, projection of feminist beliefs and perception of nurses as subordinates to other health professionals further widens the gap, between the shortage of nurses and barriers to recruitment of men into nursing.

Consequently, due to increased disease burden, health awareness and demand for qualitative care by various stakeholders in the health industry, it’s therefore expedient for extra hands to be recruited into the profession.

Hitherto, as a professional nurse, irrespective of your gender, your patients expect competent and impeccable healthcare.

As a male nurse, I have a duty towards my patients. But there is a need to explore where else my duty lies. Examples being; caring for myself, friends, family, and colleagues.

male nurse
Male Nurse

I could recall what happened to me one faithful Saturday evening, I’d prepared to watch a match with my friends and probably have a drink or two with them. I was pleased as I wasn’t on duty, as usual, that night.  Luckily for me, there was an interesting game coming on by 8 pm that night, “The almighty UEFA champion’s league final”.

Settled, ready for a nice time.

Unexpectedly, my phone rang. It was a colleague, Nurse Choice. She’d been waiting for me to resume and take over the shift for the night. Unknowingly to me, the HOD had earlier adjusted the roster. She tried to inform me, but my mobile phone was not reachable.

 [On the phone];

Me: Hello, Nurse Choice.

Nurse Choice: ”how are you Nurse Umoh, what’s keeping you? I’ve been waiting”.

Me: Wow, what’s this about?

Nurse Choice: ”You’re on duty this night with two other nurses. You’re 30min late already. Please come quickly.”

I felt a chill run through my spine.  I was far away from home, so I couldn’t go for my uniform. But good for me, I was close to the hospital’s gate, so I crossed into the hospital in haste and changed into an operating room scrub.

Now, this is the life of a nurse, whether male or female. A perfect Saturday evening, a Sunday morning at Church, a Friday night-life, these have become luxury because of the commitment made to caring for others.

As a male nurse, and speaking strictly from my own perspective, it’s a daunting call sometimes. There’s the discrimination by my peers to deal with, nursing is still seen by some as a feminine profession, some female colleagues feel threatened when I work just as good or better than they can, and patients may refer to me as a doctor, all because I’m a male.

Certain stereotypes could be a perfect excuse for a male nurse to stay away and give up on the profession; and, that Saturday night I wasn’t the happiest, but I had to honor the clarion call.

I was quite hungry at the moment, I could feel my stomach rumble; my brain was signaling ”low sugar.” Clinically, I was in a panic state with thoughts spiraling around in my head.

First, I assessed the situation calmly, planned the shift and bearing in mind prompt response whenever I am called upon. I’d have to multitask if things were to work out fine. My stomach grumbles again. I needed food urgently otherwise my hands might start shaking and my whole body would tremble along.

Not only will I have to read through 9 folders of about 8-20 pages each, I’ll also do an assessment, diagnose, plan and implement my plans for these 9 inpatients simultaneously. As an efficient nurse you must be an energy saver, resource manager both human and material, above all you should be able to function optimally with less physical energy and more mental grind. Either way, you’ll need food to power your brain cells and avoid a system malfunction. 

I quickly went through the folders. Just as I was about to call the food vendor, I heard a loud scream through the labor room’s window. It was Mrs. Chine lo; she was a booked G2P1 who rarely attend antenatal clinics. She was contracting violently.

As I looked towards her direction, I can see the receptionist approaching with her folder. She said frivolously, she’s seeing water. I glanced at her, she appeared anxious and in a lot of pain. She cried out as the contraction increased. It was clear to me that an inevitable miscarriage was imminent.

‘’Let’s go to the labor room madam Chine lo’’ I said. She obliged immediately followed by a question “where is the doctor?” He’ll be here soon as I support her by the shoulder while the nurse assistant had gone to fetch the doctor on call.

It was a long slow walk to the labor room which was just a few feet away, but due to violent contractions. Finally, we got to the labor room. ”Madam please lie on the birthing couch, we need to do an examination on you and your baby,” I said. She hesitated but finally obeyed. I started with her vitals, her BP was raised and pulse rapid.

On abdominal examination, she was barely 18 cm, though she was about 20weeks of gestation. The contractions were becoming more frequent and excruciating. I palpated the abdomen to feel the fetal pole, which was longitudinal but on auscultation, no fetal heartbeat was heard. All along I was communicating these findings with her.

male nurse
Male Nurse

I was sensitive enough to seek her consent before doing a speculum examination on her, but I couldn’t believe my ears. She responded, “You can’t touch me”, ”I can’t let you do that to me”, ”I mean. Don’t I deserve any dignity anymore?” ”How can a man like you examine me?”, ”Please go and call the other nurse for me”.

I was embarrassed, that was an ethical dilemma, and I said to myself “what am I supposed to do in this situation?  As a nurse in charge that night, how will I leave her alone and go in search of a nurse assistant to do a VE (vaginal examination) for her? That isn’t professional; I’ll rather wait for the right time to intervene.

While waiting, I took the liberty to explain to her, that I respect her decision and value her privacy. But I told her that I am not just a “male nurse”, I am a “Registered nurse”. It’s important for people to know that my gender does not prevent me from providing quality care to each of my patients.

Finally, the nurse assistant appeared with the doctor. By this time, her contractions had relaxed. I was also relieved; at least I can focus on other things. Probably, I can order for food but unknown to me, it was already 11:30 pm. The food vendor over the phone told me she had closed for the day. It wasn’t the best news, but I have to stomach it.

As if it wasn’t enough trials already, I was beside the new intern doctor while preparing an oxytocin drip. The new doctor without notifying me or taking cognizance of the fact that I was beside him, ruptured the bulging membranes and that’s how I was bathed with a gushing flow of amniotic fluid. Unfortunately for me,  I had no apron on.

I rushed into the changing room, changed into a new scrub and continued with the delivery and in no time, as the oxytocin began to take effect, she started contracting again and in minutes the whole delivery process was over.

Finally, though it was a sad indent, I was thankful the situation was under control, but it served as an eye-opener to me as I didn’t realize how far the discrimination can go.

People would look right past me when I told them I was a nurse because some see a male nurse not as skillful and compassionate as the female ones. But as a male in a female-dominated profession, one needs to develop a hard shell that bounces off all discrimination and derogatory statement and also needs to have a warm heart for those who hold the prejudices.

Male nurse
Male Nurses

WHAT NURSE STEREOTYPES ARE ASSOCIATED WITH A MALE NURSE?

The most annoying stereotypical question a male nurse has to answer goes like; ‘’why aren’t you a doctor?’’ or simply ‘’why didn’t you read medicine?’’. This is a heartbreaking question, people usually think a male nurse ended up as a ”nurse” because he couldn’t succeed as a doctor or pharmacist. When asked, my responses usually go like ‘’ This is what I love doing”. I didn’t study nursing in the university because am not smart enough to be a doctor, this is what I was called to do.’’

When such happens, one is left to wonder ‘’ doesn’t any profession deserve equal share of men who are smart, good-looking, enthusiastic and compassionate about their chosen career?’’ Some people are of a mind to see a male nurse as a failure or a waste of masculinity. Yet some of my female colleagues take the advantage of my masculinity, sometimes they push certain nursing responsibilities during the shift to me e.g. lifting or turning of patients, handling difficult patients or any task that requires mechanical applications, etc.

Most, male nurses experience other unfair treatment from colleagues in the health settings, e.g. being unwanted in the labor/ maternity ward. Some of my colleagues wouldn’t be bold enough to say it out but their body language speaks for them. Nevertheless, the same people would be comfortable and ready to work with a male doctor, physiotherapist, etc. this is nothing other than senseless discrimination.

male nurse
Male Nurse

Some patients would out rightly say they prefer female nurses, I virtually do not know their rationale behind some of their decision, maybe because they believe that female nurses are more approachable, caring and less threatening or sometimes for religious reasons. Even when such patients were seen and examined by male doctors before coming to meet a male nurse for simple things like taking an injection or wound dressing for an example.

Sometimes you can’t blame the patients because they have the right to choose their health care provider. Secondly, let’s face it; as a guy on admission, I’ll probably opt for a beautiful female nurse if given the opportunity.

Sometimes as a male nurse, patients mistake me to be a doctor and therefore should be approached except for a very good reason or someone who is too intimidating to be approached. Yes, that is just one good piece of the stereotype I sometimes enjoy. I mean who doesn’t want to be respected and valued?

People typically believe that men should do masculine jobs. These rings true all the time, back in my university days, a lecturer openly made a jest of me by saying ‘’if you continue studying this courses, you’ll also have to grow and develop your breast’’.

Excuse me Sir; it’s a free world, any man or woman is free to choose any career path that he or she wishes to pursue in life. Anybody can choose to be a nurse, housemaid, hair-stylist, stay at home husband, masseur, etc. as long as those services are demanded someone must fill the position. Life is all about preferences.

Over the years of practicing nursing, I have learned that self-actualization is the core of human existence and you might never attain self-actualization if you’re overly concerned about societal pressures and stereotypes. Above and beyond, being a male nurse means having the ‘heart’ to serve, there is no place for sexuality in the profession if nursing is to attain professional status.

male nurse
Male Nurse

Another unfair stereotype against a male nurse usually stems from a case of “mistaken identity”; a male nurse is usually mistaken as a doctor, womanizers or just one of the “cleaners/ ward attendants”.

It is worthy of note that, not all male nurses are Medical Doctors even though there are doctors today who were once nurses and some nurses have Ph.D.’s(Dr). I admit that some nurses womanize, but let it be clear that, there are others who innocently pursue their careers as male health professionals.

Also, not every white uniform wearing a male that pushes a wheelchair lifts patients or cleans the ward is a nurse. Some are ward attendants. Even though some private hospitals in Africa subject nurses to such unfair treatment.

Severally people think a male nurse is unapproachable or “rude” and therefore cannot be worked with. Every human being has a downside to their personality, but it wouldn’t be right to stereotype every male nurse as rude and unapproachable.

Even though some are actually rude and definitely unapproachable, but as a professional, you should strive to discharge your duties irrespective of whatever personality crises you have within. Let not forget that some patients and other health workers might be unnecessarily rude to a male nurse.

Personally, I have been attacked and my uniform was torn by a patient who thought I was being harsh or rough on her child while trying to secure an IV (intravenous line) for her dehydrated child.

Sometimes, patients just want to detect to the nurse male or female how to go about his or her clinical procedure and if such a nurse refuses to bend the standard operating procedure(SOP), he’ll be seen as rude or lacking understanding and empathy. Personally, if doing the right thing is regarded as being rude? Then I’ll rather be rude than fall into the trap of compromising my professional standards.

male nurse

WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF BEING A MALE NURSE?

You get to be a celebrity.  Re-entering of male nurses into the profession helps gender-balancing. This is good for any profession.  For any profession to succeed, it needs to attract the right individuals who excel in critical thinking, who must join hands and brains to develop it. Nursing must be structured to benefit from the wealth of knowledge available in men.

Take for example the nursing procedures and other problem-solving tools available today, nobody would come from other professions to devise means on solving problems that it is peculiar to nurses. Nurses must think, generate ideas and fabricate technologies that’ll compete and resolve emerging nursing needs in the twenty-first century if nursing must survive as a profession. 

For the time being, as a male nurse, you will get to stand out in a good way and your contributions would not be forgotten.

You’re helping to bring men back into nursing. I am pretty sure a lot do not know nursing actually started with men way back in the sixteen century during the black plague in Europe. Men joined the world’s first nursing school in India in 250 B.C. and men were the pioneers of the first nursing schools in the US.

No, cooperate dressing! Hopping into scrubs every day is so comfortable and easy! You don’t have to worry about what to wear to work, how to combine colors so you don’t look awkward and out of place. I mean, it’s cool to look good though, but there are certain jobs you don’t need fanciful clothes to function optimally. But trust me, if you don’t have the head for the headache that goes with moving with secular fashion trends and treating the world as a run-way? Nursing is the perfect career for you.

You may be helping to increase pay overall. As men troop into the nursing profession, it has had a positive effect on wages for both sexes. Before now, wages offered to women are often seen as secondary wages, and since women were not seen as breadwinners of their family, the wages that go with their jobs are usually not commensurate with the jobs they do. You can agree with me that the narratives are gradually changing. A lot of women are actually playing a man’s social role in their family. Therefore, you’re helping women fight inequality.

Male Nurse

You get respect. This time around I’m not talking about being mistaken for a doctor, although this happens. Being a nurse is a great source of pride for any gender. In my view, there isn’t a better way to derive satisfaction for me than helping people who could not help themselves and doing so without expecting anything in return. It increases self-worth and each day it gives a reason to stay alive because you’re making the world a better place.

Your job is satisfying on manifold levels. It’s a job that imbibes the culture of nurturing and lets you use your caring instincts, the sixth sense people often aren’t aware of, being a nurse makes you a better person with relationship-oriented skills and the opportunity to pamper your way into people’s hearts.

Today’s nursing allows you to be a technical gadgetry fascination to others who don’t have such privileges.

Of course, women get this advantage too. Without a second thought, this makes you appear cool.

As a male nurse, you’re always motivated and happy to be employed. Nursing is a profitable career, it’s common for people to study nursing because of the lucrative nature of the profession, as a man, since it’s less common for men to be nurses, and you may have faced obstacles to employable.

Trusts me once you land your first job and gathered some working experience, your potentials are limitless.  A lot can make a male nurse really excited to show up for work including working with beautiful, kind and positive work colleagues.

Both female and male nurses enjoy excellent employment prospects in nursing, making this a great profession to join for practical reasons, like staying employed. You often hear people advising nurses to travel to developed countries like the US, Canada, the EU, etc. these places are the hot hubs for nurses. And due to the shortage of nurses, your precious nursing skill is in high demand.

You can get scholarships to become a male nurse or further your education. In some advance climes and countries with a severe shortage of nurses, nursing schools may grant males more points toward admission, just to even out their student body ratio. You may be eligible for certain awards or scholarships to help afford or further schooling as well. I have no doubt guys; you may be singled out as a male nurse but be an advantageous way. 

You’ll love working with beautiful, strong, capable, intelligent and funny women. Even though It’s common for women in Africa to be reserve and only open up to people they are close to. Some men grew up with women who are beautiful, caring, intelligent, funny and the likes with wonderful human qualities. These women often present as wives, sisters, etc.

So many men, on the other hand, are not so lucky, if you’ve ever wished to have a lot of the wonderful beings around you, nursing is the career for you. There’s no need to be shy about what you love doing most men enjoy working with females too. As a matter of fact, as a male nurse, most of my friends consider this a big plus, each for their own personal reasons.

You get to be a role model. While accepting my admission letter years ago, I told myself ‘’I’ll run away from the profession if I end being the one man accepted into the nursing program” that was years ago. Yes, I wasn’t the only male. We were eight guys and about eighty ladies that a ratio of 1:10. There were hardly people to look up to as role models. Partly due to poor remuneration and nurse stereotypes, Young men would not even think about taking a career in nursing.

You often hear people talk about famous doctors, pharmacist or lab scientists. People usually didn’t attach much importance to nursing. Even in the political space, it was commonplace to have doctors as commissioners or minister of health. But today these things are changing. And the only way to change nursing is by being a part of it. Changing nursing from outside is almost not possible!.

male nurse
Portrait of a successful medical team at work in a hospital

CONCLUSION

Nursing is a great profession, and it continues to attract more and more men, nurse stereotypes continue to usher an interesting heart-to-heart discussion as it concerns the profession, yet, we are all nurses working collectively to achieve health for our clients, male and female.

Regardless of which part of the sexual divide one claims, men who cherry-pick nursing as a profession have just as much pride in their career choice as women, of course, but we are unique. There’s no need to bulge everyone into one white-gown wearing category or definition of a nurse. Stereotypes like that have no place in today’s nursing workforce; however, there are certainly many aspects of nursing that draw men to the profession.

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