Gender in Nursing

I had never found interest in gender studies until very recently and I suppose it is because I didn’t want to see the disparity flourishing around me.  I mean come on, we live in the United States for heaven sake.  But, I realize that healthcare may very well be the perfect incubator for gender issues.  I work with significantly more female nurses than I do male nurses.  Yes, there are male nurses.  And no, not all male nurses are gay.  But, does it really matter? 

Please be aware that these are my own personal observations in the hospital setting in which I work and of course are not official statistics.  On that note, over the past few years I have seen an increase in men hired as nurses than in previous years.  The interesting thing is that most of them prefer a role that fundamentally carries a certain amount of power.  Almost all of the male nurses I work with will also take a charge position.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that they are managers but rather supervisors for the shift.  This also means that they tend to work in more technical units or areas such as the emergency department or the intensive care unit.  Have we created the need for men to feel empowered or is it in their nature?  We as women have not always been empowered and perhaps sometimes step aside. 

Unnithan and Srivastava refer to the impeding of vertical mobility of the sathin and pracheta of the Women’s Development Programme in India.  This concept can be applied here as well.  I think that as men integrate into nursing, the leadership roles are often given to men.  Is this because men fight for empowerment or do they truly display the required leadership qualities?  Herdman’s review of gender and nursing in Turkey reveals that men are viewed as more reliable, devoted, and harder working than women.  She blames gender definitions, patriarchical stereotypes, and the culture of the organization itself.  I think that could definitely apply to nursing in the US.  Women are still the caregivers and the ones to show compassion while men take on the management roles and control of power.

Refer to the image from the American Assembly for Men in Nursing.  It does not relay compassion or caring, terms often used to describe women.  It it used to entice men into the “adrenaline-saturated” field of Operating Room nursing.  Could this be considered a position of power?  The AAMN certainly think so.  What characteristics does it really take to be a nurse?  Are they ignoring that the care of the patient should always come first?  I think this image gives men false hope of an exciting and rewarding career while the emotional deposit required in caring for those undergoing a life threatening event is not communicated.


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