male nurse checking blood pressure of older female patient

Men in Nursing

Nursing is not only an in-demand field in America, it's also a rapidly changing one. The nursing shortage predicted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates 1.2 million positions will go unfilled between 2014 and 2022. Experts explain that as the baby boomer population ages, healthcare demands will increase and the need for skilled nurses will only grow more. A generation of nurses is also aging, adding to the swirl of factors influencing the industry. 

As part of the shift, the demographics of new nurses are also shifting. More men than ever are coming into the field. 

"We are above average on the trend of males in the nursing field," said Michael Garver, academic advisor in nursing at Columbia College, about the program. "Currently, for all students that were in or attempting to complete the major for the associate in the nursing program, 13 percent were males in 2016. In 2017, it jumped to 17 percent."

As the numbers of men in nursing grow, certain specialties have outpaced others in attracting men. Nurse anesthetists, one of the best-paid and fastest-growing nursing specialties, are 40 percent male, compared to about 10 percent male across the industry as a whole. The reasons why certain specialties attract men more than others hasn't been proven, but some argue that men are attracted to the higher-paid and more adrenaline-boosting specialties, such as emergency room or ICU nursing in addition to anesthesia. Garver offers a different insight into how men are coming into the nursing field based on his experience with nursing students at Columbia College. 

"The first kind of student played sports and had an injury, or now they are trying to avoid an injury. While working with trainers and physical therapists, they gained an interest in the field," Garver said. "The second reason students give for picking this major is they had a personal experience or a situation with a close family member. Someone was in an accident or contracted an illness, like cancer. They saw the work of nurses firsthand, and became interested. The third type of student is doing a major career change, typically due to the loss of a job."

No matter the reason that drew them into nursing, Garver notices there are valid reasons for them to stay, even beyond the job security and high pay. 

"One reason is with patient transfer and care. Nurses may need to lift a great amount of weight in regards to assisting patients into their beds, cleaning, showering, physical therapy and things like that," Garver said. "Also, sometimes male patients prefer a male nurse in regards to personal issues. Unfortunately, sometimes there isn't one available."

Related content:

What Makes a Good Nurse?

Path to Nursing

When Did You Know You Wanted to be a Nurse?

Jobs, Columbia College

+ Leave a comment

photo of Maria Haynie