Nursing Stigma in the Hispanic Community

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By Pat Magrath – DiversityNursing.com

When you think of the nurses in your life – family, friends and coworkers – are they all female? For many years, this has been the reality. But these days, more men are getting into the field of nursing. A friend of mine, Esteban, and I were chatting about his 18-year career as a nurse.

Esteban grew up in Puerto Rico. His family came to the U.S. when he was a child. His father and brother are policemen, a field primarily dominated by men. When he talked to his mother about becoming a nurse, she wasn’t excited about it because “if you’re Hispanic and interested in becoming a nurse, it is assumed you’re gay.” When she realized his passion for nursing, she was supportive and advised him respectfully.

Esteban explained that, in his culture, there is “machismo.” The Urban Dictionary defines machismo as “having an unusually high or exaggerated sense of masculinity. Including an attitude that aggression, strength, sexual prowess, power and control is the measure of someone’s manliness.” With the nursing profession being predominately female, Esteban’s mother feared he’d be teased and not seen as a strong “man.”

In Esteban’s Hispanic culture, he explained, “female nurses are completely accepted with pride, but for a male nurse it is expected you’re gay. Machismo is very strong in the Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican cultures. More straight guys are getting into nursing now. It is changing because of the nursing shortage and shortage of jobs. For many, this is a second career choice when men couldn’t find work in their first career choice.”

Esteban’s family has been extremely supportive of his chosen career, particularly while he was pursuing his master’s degree online. He explained how important family support is. His family provided some meals, continually asked what he needed and attended his graduation. They are very proud of him.

English is not Esteban’s first language, so classes and homework were very difficult. If you’re Hispanic and thinking about becoming a nurse, he advises, “don’t procrastinate.” He explains, “you need time to research and support your articles.” With English as his second language, “it took more time to check my sources, read it, read it again, and… read it again. Then… write and re-write my papers. English-speaking people can take about a half hour. It took me three times longer.” He offers great advice about the support of family and the expectation that assignments will take longer to complete.

Think about taking classes online as an option in pursuing your nursing career while juggling a busy life.

Esteban’s proficiency in Spanish comes in very handy while working at the VA in Harlem as an RN Care Manager. He is often asked to translate for patients, and most of Esteban’s patients are male veterans and Hispanic. He said, “they like a Hispanic male nurse taking care of them.”

He has plans to continue his education in the fall of 2016 and work toward attaining his doctorate. While achieving his master’s through an online program, which served him well, he envisions taking his PhD classes in a classroom to consult with instructors and collaborate with others.

Whenever Esteban talks to people about becoming a nurse, he loves to point out that “as a nurse, you can work in any setting – hospitals, schools, insurance companies, etc. If you don’t want to be a bedside nurse, there are different places to work.”

Gracias for your insights, Esteban! We appreciate all your hard work and dedication.

And if you’re thinking about getting into this field, this is a great time to do so.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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