Men Who Decide to Become Nurses

 In Nurses Weekly

Much of the literature on men in nursing has focused on historical accounts, personal narratives, expert opinions, descriptions of men’s experiences, characteristics of men in nursing, barriers for men in nursing and nursing education and comparisons between men and women in nursing.

Relatively little published work has addressed the influencing factors and social structures that explain the persistent shortage of men in nursing. Most of the literature identifies patriarchy as the foundational and explanatory paradigm for gender issues in nursing and health care overall. Patriarchy, in this context, is seen as an oppressive social system that prescribes narrow gender norms, designed to ensure and sustain power hierarchies that benefit masculine men who conform to the prescriptions.

In the history of job professionalization, this has meant creating “masculine” and “feminine” occupations and devaluing “feminized” work, such as caring for others.

Syntheses of this literature describe how patriarchy has shaped the specific assumptions, perceptions and experiences related to men in nursing, particularly when it comes to the type of nursing work men are seen as suited for (eg, high stress environments) and the type of care they should avoid (eg, personal care, therapeutic touch).

While there is an intuitive and experiential knowledge of the harmful impacts of patriarchal norms to both men and women, it remains a challenge, however, to develop generalizable assessments of gendered professional cultures so that concrete measurable strategies toward improving equity may be envisioned.

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