As a male in the nursing profession, there is not a day that goes by that I am not mistaken for a physician, some patients I have to remind multiple times that I am not their doctor, I am their nurse. Most often than not, patients follow up with the questions, “a male nurse? Why didn’t you go to medical school?” or the one that I hear most, “will you eventually go all the way and become a doctor?”
These sorts of role stereotypes by the patients and family members did not bother me until I started to notice the sexism in those remarks. None of my female colleagues would be referred to as “doctor” and some female physicians would be called “nurses.” So, No! I am not your doctor, I am your nurse! (not a murse). Furthermore, I, as most nurses, did not become a nurse because I could not get into medical school.
Although male representation in the nursing field has been growing since the 70’s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, we make up only 9.6% of the registered nurses in the U.S. This is due to the negative public perception and common image of nurses, which often consider nursing not a career path for men. This has been true for most of the history of nursing, it has been known as a woman’s domain.
Despite the growing presence of men in nursing, most still face stereotypes and discrimination. In my career, I have never faced discrimination, but plenty of stereotypes. I have yet to care for a female or male patient that requested another nurse because I am a man, I believe it is due to my approach and professionalism when meeting a new patient, and I always choose to have a female nurse or nursing assistant to chaperone or help when providing intimate care to female patients. The stereotypes however, are free flowing.
Ignoring stereotypes are a must for both male and female nurses, because female nurses also have negative and offensive stereotypes surrounding them. Becoming resistant to such negativity, and dealing with offensive comments in a professional manner is part of being nurse, we care for people at their worst, learning not to take foulness to heart and continuing to provide the best care possible is what we do on daily basis.
Men are breaking the barriers of the nursing profession, and we are entering the field at an increased rate. Our female counterparts also appreciate the lifting help, and you may find yourself being the one doing most of the chest compressions on the obese patients during a code, but that’s part of the teamwork that is required amongst us nurses. Great patient care is not related to the gender of those providing the care.
Being a man does not make me care less for you or your loved ones. I have sat with a DNR patient and held his hand while he died so he wouldn’t be alone while his family made their way to the hospital, I have carried a patient in my arms to prevent her from falling and hurting herself. I have hugged an anxious man to help him cope with his anxiety, made sure a daughter was comfortable in a recliner to spend the night with her mother in the hospital. I make sure your loved ones does not sit in feces and urine, the same way I would not leave my family members. Being a man does not prevent me from showing sympathy, compassion and respect for my patients. I am a man, I am a nurse, I care.
The Dude Nurse
Klaus Campos, BSN-RN