Historically, both men and women have filled the challenging and rewarding role of a nurse. It wasn’t until the Civil War, when nearly 3 million men filled the ranks of two competing American armed forces, that women began to dominate the field.
Today, over 43 million Americans are aged 65 or older – a number that is expected to double over the next 35 years. A larger elderly population means a greater need for long-term health services, and as a result, the healthcare field is one of the fastest-growing industries.
Why does this matter?
1. The U.S. is already on the verge of a nursing shortage.
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports that the U.S. is experiencing a shortage of Registered Nurses (RNs) that is expected to intensify as Baby Boomers age and the need for health care grows.
Did you know only 7 percent of nurses are currently men? According to the latest National Sample Survey of Registered Nurses conducted by the Health Resources and Services Administration, the percentage of male nurses has more than doubled in the past three decades, but still lingers at 7% today. This number is expected to triple within the next few decades as the need for both male and female healthcare professionals continues to grow.
2. A diverse population needs a diverse nursing staff.
According to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN), men are enrolling in nursing programs at a higher rate compared to the past. The IOM report states that there still need to be an emphasis on gender diversification and inclusion in the workforce.
The IOM Report also states that the nursing profession “needs to continue efforts to recruit men; their unique perspectives and skills are important to the profession and will help contribute additional diversity in the workforce.” The increase in men pursuing a nursing career will help create a more diverse healthcare environment.
3. Discrimination issues must be overcome.
The idea that men cannot be nurses will never be eradicated until men take to the profession in greater numbers. While nursing is seen as a nontraditional career for men today, the stereotype must change -- nursing is simply too important of a job, and too attractive of a career.
“There are just far too many benefits that come along with nursing, such as a flexible schedule, a secure position, and high pay,” notes the website NursingWithoutBorders.org, “and so it’s therefore difficult for anyone to refuse to pursue a field that only continues to grow.”