Men in nursing

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A U.S. Navy nurse attends to a child.

Although widely seen as a female profession,[1] and mainly portrayed as such in the media,[2] nursing is gradually becoming a more inclusive profession. Males make up around 10% of the taskforce in the UK,[1][3] 6.4% of nurses in Canada,[4] and 23% of nurses in Iran.[5] In 2011 in the United States, there were approximately 3.5 million nurses, with approximately 330,000 (9%) of those being male.[6]


While the current structure of the medical field, including nursing care, does not directly translate to historical provision of care, there is a history of male presence in caring for the sick and infirmed. The term nosocomial originates from the latin nosocomi, the name given to male care-givers, meaning that men were prominent in Ancient Rome[7]. Years late, during the plagues that swept through Europe, male nurses were also the primary care-givers. In the 3rd century, men in the Parabolani created a hospital and provided nursing care.[8] The Codex Theodosianus of 416 (xvi, 2, 42) restricted the enrollment on male nurses in Alexandria to 500.[9]

In the 14th century, the Alexian brothers existed as a Christian religious congregation with strong emphasis on care for the infirmed[7]. Later, John of God, following a conversion to Christianity, provided care for both the physically and mentally ill and notably challenged the stigmas associated with Mental Illness[10]. Later, he founded the Brothers Hospitallers of Saint John of God which continues to work with poor and infirmed to this day.

Reasons for low representation[edit]

There are several reasons suggested for a low rates of nursing by males: stereotypes of nursing, lack of male interest in the profession, low pay, nursing job titles such as Sister and Matron, and the perception that male nurses will have difficulty in the workplace carrying out their duties.[11] It is argued by the Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing that the "continuing stereotyping" of male nurses is the main reason for low intake.[3]

Efforts to increase representations[edit]

Unlike the campaigns and groups set up to increase and promote women's opportunities in medicine[12][13] and surgery[14] there have been no comparable campaigns to increase the number of males in nursing.

In Northern Ireland a campaign ran by Queen University has been aimed at getting more males interested in nursing, with varying levels of success.[3][15]

Professional life[edit]

Whilst there are low numbers of male nurses, there is no indication that they suffer in their career. Pay disparity results in male nurses earning more than their female counterparts, and anecdotal evidence suggests that male nurses are more likely to be fast-tracked into management positions.[16] Furthermore, a report into the role of men in nursing found there to be more focus on human caring amongst male nurses.[17]


United Kingdom[edit]

The Society of Registered Male Nurses[18] merged with the RCN in 1941.

After the Second World War, large numbers of male nurses move into the workforce as they were demobilised after the war and had gained medical experience. In 1951 the male nurses joined the main nursing register.

In 2004 the percentage of male nurses was 10.63% and has increased to 10.69% in 2008[19] then to 11.4% in 2016[3].

In 2015 there were 103 male midwives on the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) nursing register, compared to 31,189 women.[20]

United States[edit]

In 2008, of the 3,063,163 licensed registered nurses in the United States only 6.6% of were men.[21] Men make up only 13% of all new nursing students.[22]

Nursing schools for men were common in the United States until the early 1900s. More than half of those offering paid nursing services to the ill and injured were men. Yet by 1930, men constituted fewer than 1% of RNs in the United States.[23] As they found other, more lucrative occupations, they left nursing behind.[24]

In 1955, the United States Congress revised the Army-Navy Nurses Act of 1947 to allow for the commissioning of men into military nursing corps.[25]

The American Assembly for Men in Nursing was founded in 1971. The purpose of the AAMN is to provide a framework for nurses as a group to meet, discuss, and influence factors that affect men as nurses.[26]

In Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, 458 U.S. 718 (1982), the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5–4 that Mississippi University for Women's single sex admissions policy for its nursing school violated the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor wrote the landmark opinion.

In popular culture[edit]

Notable men in nursing[edit]

Walt Whitman and his male nurse Fritzenger (July 1890)

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • McDowell, Joanne (2015). "Talk in feminised occupations: exploring male nurses' linguistic behaviour". Gender and Language. 9 (3): 365–390. doi:10.1558/genl.v9i3.17496.


  1. ^ a b "Why are there so few men in nursing?". Nursing Times. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  2. ^ "Nurses seem to be everywhere in popular culture..." Nursing Times. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  3. ^ a b c d Williams, Rachel (2017-03-01). "Why are there so few male nurses?". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  4. ^ Canadian Nurses Association (February 2012). "2010 Workforce Profile of Registered Nurses in Canada" (PDF). Canadian Nurses Association. Retrieved 2017-06-06.
  5. ^ Negarandeh, R; et al. (2013). "Factors Influencing Men Entering the Nursing Profession, and Understanding the Challenges Faced by Them: Iranian and Developed Countries' Perspectives". Nursing and Midwifery Studies. 2 (4): 49–56. doi:10.5812/nms.12583. PMC 4228905. PMID 25414879.
  6. ^ Landivar, Liana Christin (2013). "Men in Nursing Occupations" (PDF). Census. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2017-07-13. Retrieved 2017-06-06.
  7. ^ a b "Men in Nursing Historical Timeline". Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  8. ^ "Men and Nursing".
  9. ^ Parabolani: from Catholic Encyclopedia of 1913.
  10. ^ Forkan, Donatus (2010). "About us" (PDF). St John of God Hospitaller.
  11. ^ Prideaux, Antony (2010). "Male nurses and the protection of female patient dignity". Nursing Standard. 25 (13): 42–49. doi:10.7748/ns2010. PMID 21207825.
  12. ^ "Home - Medical Women's Federation".
  13. ^ "GMC - Women's role in medicine is growing".
  14. ^ "Women in Surgery".
  15. ^ "Operation Male Nurse -". Retrieved 2017-06-10.
  16. ^ "Women outnumber them 10:1. So why do male nurses get paid more?". Retrieved 14 October 2017.
  17. ^ Harding, T (2009). "Swimming against the malestream: men choosing nursing as a career". Nursing Praxis New Zealand. 25 – via Pubmed.
  18. ^ "Our history". Archived from the original on June 15, 2011.
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-03-04. Retrieved 2014-10-20.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "No job for a man? Meet the male midwives". Retrieved 2017-06-11.
  21. ^ "Home - Minority Nurse". Minority Nurse.
  22. ^ Chung, Vicki. "Men in Nursing".
  23. ^
  24. ^ Occupational Segregation and the Devaluation of Women's Work across U.S. Labor Markets, Cohen, Philip N., Huffman, Matt L., Social Forces, Volume 81, Number 3, March 2003, pp. 881-908, The University of North Carolina Press.
  25. ^
  26. ^ "American Assembly for Men in Nursing - AAMN".
  27. ^ "Royal College of Nursing, Fellows". RCN. Archived from the original on 2008-10-11. Retrieved 2006-10-20.
  28. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa (2014-09-09). "William Pooley plans return to the fight against Ebola in Sierra Leone". The Guardian.

External links[edit]