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Men in Nursing

Opening the Doors: Bringing More Men Into Nursing

Deborah Trautman, PhD, RN, FAAN

President and CEO, American Association of Colleges of Nursing

As the U.S. struggles to find solutions to the current and projected nursing shortage, one strategy to address the ongoing need for more registered nurses (RNs) continues to surface: Nursing schools must strengthen their efforts to attract more men into the profession.

Historically, nursing has always been a female-dominated profession, with women currently making up more than 90 percent of RNs, according to the latest data available from the National Council of State Boards of Nursing. Considering the fact that men make up 49.2 percent of U.S. citizens, today’s nursing workforce does not mirror the patient population it serves.

Barriers to entry

Studies point to many reasons why men often do not pursue nursing careers, including role stereotypes, economic barriers, few mentors, gender biases, lack of direction from early authority figures, misunderstanding about the practice of nursing, and increased opportunities in other fields. Compounding the lack of gender diversity is the fact that nursing school deans and faculty are also a gender-skewed group. Men only represent 6.5 percent of faculty and 6 percent of deans, which can present challenges to prospective students seeking male role models and career advice from those with real-life experience.  

Recruiting efforts

Fortunately, nursing schools have made recruiting more men into their programs a priority. Some schools offer mentoring programs for male students, while others have created pipeline programs to transition military veterans into registered nurses, building on the individual’s previous health care experience.

Other schools are using a combination of traditional marketing methods and targeted outreach campaigns to attract and enroll more men into their degree programs. Schools around the country have been deliberate about updating their marketing materials, retooling their promotional messages, and using images of diverse groups of nurses to appeal directly to underrepresented groups. 

The success of these efforts is beginning to show. Data compiled by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) indicates that the percentage of male nurses in undergraduate and graduate programs is increasing. Currently, men represent 13.4 percent of students in entry-level baccalaureate nursing programs. In graduate programs, men make up 12.2 percent of students in master’s programs and 11.2 percent of students in doctoral programs. At this rate, we expect a significant increase in the number of men in the nursing workforce over the next few years. 

Attracting men into nursing is essential to sustaining a robust nursing workforce. Academic nursing leaders are working to meet this need and are welcoming an increasing number of men into the nursing profession.

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