Rethinking the Term “Male Nurse”
Among the more than 2 million registered nurses across the country, only about 10 percent are men, according to the latest census data. For Chris Stallard, MSN, RN, FNP-C, COHC, that statistic is troubling. He wants to know what is holding men back from pursuing a career in nursing. He believes that promoting more diversity and inclusion in the nursing community leads to better care for patients.
“In my mind, nursing is a great profession that needs complete inclusion and diversity because everyone that walks through the door of a hospital is different,” Stallard said. “We need all kinds of diversity, experience and insight to continue to provide a high level of care for our patients.”
Stallard is a family nurse practitioner with Professional Performance Development Group, Inc. and an occupational health nurse for Johnson & Johnson in Texas and Arkansas. Stallard first wanted to be a nurse after helping provide relief during both Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. While helping, he realized that he enjoyed how nursing let him connect with people, and he immediately told his wife that he wanted to be a nurse. The couple moved to San Angelo, Tex., and Stallard started nursing school.
While in nursing school, Stallard noticed that students often learned about female nursing pioneers like Florence Nightingale and Dorothea Dix, but heard very little about the rich history of men in nursing, dating back to the first nursing school (for men) created in India in 250 B.C. or Friar Juan de Mena, the first identified nurse in what was to become the U.S., 70 years before the Pilgrims landed on Plymouth Rock.
According to Stallard, a slight bias against men in nursing often begins in the classroom and continues into many aspects of nursing practice. Even the term “male nurse” is in itself a barrier.
“The term ‘male nurse’ immediately separates me from the rest of nursing,” said Stallard. “Whether it is meant in a positive or negative way, it sets me apart from every other nurse and makes me feel not quite 100 percent nurse.”
However, for many patients, the term “male nurse” is insignificant.
“Once while I was taking care of a patient, I became frustrated and scared because I couldn’t find a female nurse to provide a catheter change for the woman,” Stallard said. “The patient noticed my nervousness and seemed to be puzzled by it, stating, ‘You’re a nurse, right?’ This moment stuck with me for years and always reminds me that I am a nurse first and foremost.”
“Being a nurse means being strong for those who are not strong, helping those that cannot help themselves and being hopeful for those who have lost hope,” continued Stallard. “It is one of the only professions I know of where I am paid to make someone feel better. How great is that?”
Stallard hopes other men will consider nursing as a career.
“Nursing is a rewarding and exciting career and if men are looking to have a fulfilling profession for life, then they should consider pursuing the nursing profession.”
And for female nurses, interested in addressing the issues he describes for men in nursing?
"Nurses are nurses,” he said. “Let’s start by removing the term ‘male nurse.’”
For more information about the history of men in nursing, visit DiscoverNursing.com. You can also see a short video featuring Tom, a pediatric oncology nurse, below. Additionally, nurses interested in connecting with a community of men in nursing can join the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN). The AAMN works to support men who are nurses and demonstrate to society the increasing contributions being made by men within the nursing profession.