Michael Ward, APRN, AGACNP-BC, vice president of the American Association for Men in Nursing, explains why the nursing profession will benefit from more men entering the field, and why men should be interested in nursing careers.
Michael Ward, APRN, AGACNP-BC
Vice President, American Association for Men in Nursing
Beyond alleviating employment shortages, how does the nursing profession benefit from having more men in the field?
Gender parity in any profession improves upon the quality of that profession. In general, diversity brings about higher quality care and improved patient outcomes. When you add more men to the profession, you are not just adding white men, but also Black men, hispanic men, Filippino men, Native American men, Asian men, etc. These men add tremendous value to the profession and to the patients for whom they care. And it’s not uncommon for men and young boys to prefer to have a male nurse care rather than a female counterpart, especially during sensitive situations and procedures.
What benefits does a career in nursing provide that men might not be aware of?
I chose nursing because I found it challenging, rewarding, and it provided immense job satisfaction. I initially wanted to go to medical school. If, for whatever reason, I was not accepted into medical school, I figured nursing would be a great job to fall back on and give me a bit of an edge when I finally did make it into medical school.
While going through clinicals, however, I found that I really enjoyed nursing; the opportunity and personal satisfaction to care for those during, often times, the worst times of their lives, the exhilaration and adrenaline rush of critical care and emergency nursing, and the seemingly limitless opportunities within the field were all very appealing to me.
When you become a physician, it is not easy to move from one specialty to another. However, as a nurse or advanced practice nurse, it is much more feasible. If you want to work in critical care, you can do that. If you want to work in neurology, you can do that. If you want to work in surgery, you can do that, too.
As more males pursue nursing as a career, does that make it easier to recruit others since the notion of a male nurse doesn’t seem so unusual?
The notion that nursing is a woman’s job is archaic. I believe the tide is turning. This generation will see large numbers of males entering the profession, and that will have a positive impact upon the subsequent recruitment numbers.
However, it’s important to present the opportunity and value the nursing profession offers males as early as junior high school. I don’t remember a school guidance counselor ever suggesting the nursing profession as an option for me.
AAMN has taken steps to help facilitate these conversations through our Future RN campaign, where our chapters around the United States go into junior high and high schools and present nursing as a viable career path for males. Planting these seeds in the minds of these young males will be fruitful for our profession.
How do you believe COVID will impact the number of people who choose to pursue nursing in the next few years?
In February, the BBC noted U.K. nursing applications are up 32 percent from the previous year, according to the Universities and College Admissions Service. The number of nursing applicants in the United States is up 61 percent since COVID.
The pandemic has allowed people to observe the true value of the nursing profession and its impact on society in general. Research has shown that people — millennials especially — desire to be a part of something bigger than themselves and want to make an impact. Nursing definitely checks those boxes. We need them, too: The Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates there will be 176,000 open nursing positions each year until 2029.