Nursing Profession Is For Men, Too

July 13, 2007
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The Michigan Center for Nursing is trying to encourage more males to go into the nursing profession with its “Nursing in Michigan: It’s A Guy Thing, Too” campaign. 

Male nurses who were interested in being part of the advertising campaign were required to submit an essay explaining why they chose a career in nursing. Out of 76 applicants, eight finalists are featured in the recruitment poster. They were photographed in their street clothes or sporting gear, and again in their work scrubs, lab coats or suits. Posters were distributed to hospitals, schools, nursing groups and high schools around the state in mid-February. A campaign brochure went out in May.

“Sometimes, there is a stereotype of the male nurse,” said Carole Stacy, executive director of the Michigan Center for Nursing. “Nursing is still perceived by some as primarily a female career. Nursing isn’t gender-specific at all; it’s sort of personality-specific. The reasons that they go into nursing and the satisfaction they get out of nursing mirrors the feelings of all nurses, whatever their gender.”

According to the center, women have left nursing for other professions, and not enough men have entered the profession to take their place. The 2006 Michigan Licensure Survey revealed that 7.9 percent of active RNs and 4.4 percent of active LPNs are male.

Recruiting males isn’t easy, and recruiting African-Americans and Hispanics is even harder, Stacy observed. The racial and ethnic makeup of the current nursing work force in Michigan is not reflective of the state’s increasingly diverse population, either, she said. The Licensure Survey indicated that 86 percent of active RNs are white; 7.6 percent are African-American; 2.7 percent are American Indian/Alaskan Native; 1.5 percent are Hispanic; 1.4 percent are Asian; and less than 1 percent are Middle Easterner or Pacific Islander. 

“I think, in Michigan, one of the reasons this campaign was timely was because of all of the financial difficulties with the auto industry; we have a lot of displaced workers coming out of the auto industry, and a large percentage are male,” Stacy noted. “We really wanted to do something that would encourage them to consider nursing as a career.”

The hospitals “absolutely love” the campaign, she said. One hospital wanted 50 more posters so one could be posted in each of the hospital’s units. Some of the hospitals that have nurses featured in the poster are using them in public presentations, more or less as spokesmen for the nursing profession.

Francois Gastsinzi is an RN who works in general medical/surgery at Spectrum Health’s Butterworth Campus. He was a physician in his native country, Rwanda, but fled the country in 1994 due to genocide. Between April and June of that year, an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed. Gastsinzi made his home in Grand Rapids, where he learned English and trained as a nurse.

“I was thinking it was going to be a temporary thing, but I ended up liking it,” Gastsinzi recalled. “The most rewarding thing is to see patients you are helping get better. Even if they don’t get better, you are there supporting them, you are offering a shoulder to cry on, you are involved in their care, and that’s really what I enjoy doing.”

Gastsinzi is promoting the nursing profession to males by visiting schools and talking about it in the hopes that some young men will consider it as a career option.  

“I just want men to know that they can be nurses, and that they can be wonderful nurses,” he added.

He’s not the only one trying to spread the word. Registered nurse John Beavers of Borgess Medical Center in Kalamazoo said that his grandmother always told him he had a very caring nature. Beavers spent seven years as a paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne Division. Out of all the skills he learned, he said, the ones that fascinated him the most were the lifesaving techniques.

“This interest in the healing arts led me to seek employment in a hospital setting as a patient care associate while I pursued my degree in nursing. I liked nursing because these individuals truly knew their patients and could express not only sympathy for them, but also empathy. I had excellent role models then, and I still do today,” Beavers stated in his essay.

Bobby Joe Shell, another registered nurse at Borgess, started working in a small hospital as an orderly at age 16. He said he liked it so much that he decided to become a nurse.

“The first time I ‘inquired’ about becoming a nurse, the director of the program told me that I was a man, and I should be a physician. The second time I applied, which was three years later, I was accepted into the program. I have worked as a nurse for almost 30 years. What I find rewarding about the profession is the sense of satisfaction I receive helping people,” Shell wrote in his essay.

In addition to men, Gastsinzi would like to see more minorities in the nursing profession.  He said Spectrum Health encourages both men and minorities to apply for nursing jobs because the hospital system would like to see a more multi-ethnic, multi-cultural mix of people in health care. 

“When patients come to the hospital, if they have someone who looks like them and talks like them, they feel more comfortable,” Gastsinzi remarked. “They feel they can trust people who have the same background. It’s very important for people of every minority group to think about going into nursing, so that every minority is represented in the field.”   HQ

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