Don’t call me a male nurse, please

Published: December 09, 2019

It’s time to de-gender the nursing profession, according to a researcher looking into the extreme minority of men in the profession.

“Basically half of the potential workforce rejects the idea of becoming a nurse. There are historical causes (men were banned from the profession in the United Kingdom early last century, for example) but, today, there are no good reasons for men not entering the profession,” says, Assistant Professor of Nursing at Queensborough Community College, Randelle Sasa.

About 15% of practicing nurses in the United States are male. For most of the last century, the percentage stagnated in single digits.

“There are gender-role expectations, societal norms; it’s a non-conformist career choice. There are a lot of reasons why men avoid nursing,” explains Sasa, author of Male nurse: A concept analysis (Nursing Forum 2019:54:593-600)

A leading obstacle to gender inequality may be that the term “male nurse”, commonly used in nursing, is considered by some to be pejorative or unnecessary.

“The qualifier male emphasizes that a man is not a usual nurse and that creates isolation and margination. The masculinity of the nurse is seemingly questioned,” adds Sasa, a former critical care nurse at Bellevue Hospital.

“Men in nursing would rather be called a nurse, period.”

Sasa-COM_0794-small.jpg

Picture: Assistant Professor of Nursing, Randelle Sasa, center, with students at Queensborough's virtual hospital.

The larger issue, Sasa explains, is that the gender-based label is injurious to nursing professionals and as a consequence, to patients.

“It preserves sex segregation as well as stereotypes and that affects everyone.”

Sasa -- who lectures in one of the most competitive, highly diverse and desirable nursing programs in the city -- believes mindsets, inside and outside of healthcare need to change.

“That’s one reason we go into local schools and present a male perspective on nursing, to increase our visibility and change perceptions that it is a career for women only.”

10-15% of Queensborough’s nursing students are male. Most, Sasa reveals, come from other healthcare fields such as paramedics or the military.

He tells young men (and women) that the workforce needs to reflect all of its clients; that it needs to be inviting and inclusive of all backgrounds, abilities and outlooks.

“Mainstreaming men will start to remove stereotypes, enrich care and balance the workplace, especially in respect to the patients being served. You need male and female perspectives,” Sasa concluded, in his study.

Sasa’s review of other studies also found that nurses who are men, who stick with the profession, tend to earn more and ascend the career ladder faster. Conversely, attrition of men from the profession is unacceptably high.

“Gendered work creates and perpetuates disparities between men and women and ultimately hurts both. There is an urgent need for change and we need to do more.”

Salas was born and raised in Manila, the eldest son of three children. His brother is a physician in the Philippines and his sister is nurse in America. His father is an engineer and his mother is a biologist and teacher. Advised by his aunt to become a nurse, Sasa came to the United States in 2013.

He joined Queensborough in 2016 to teach medical/surgical nursing and is pursuing his doctorate at the CUNY Graduate Center.

“I find I am more of an academic; mom’s teaching seems to have rubbed off."

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Contact:  Michael Donahue or Alice Doyle

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