Male nurses, though not as uncommon as they used to be, are still far and few between in the United States and around the world. However, areas of the hospital such as the intensive care unit (ICU) and emergency room (ER) tend to have a higher population of male nurses than other departments. This phenomenon can be attributed to the fact that different areas appeal more to men in the nursing field, and the unfortunate reality that there is still lingering presence of discrimination against male nurses in some departments. Here’s a look at a few reasons why many men in the nursing profession choose to work in the ICU:
Adrenalin rush – While not as full of action as the emergency room, the ICU has its share of patients who have their ups and downs, which keeps nurses on their feet, both literally and figuratively. Patients in the ICU are in relatively stable condition, but there’s no guarantee that a life-threatening event won’t happen. When such an event does occur, most male nurses get a rush of adrenalin that they can thrive on for hours, or even days, thereafter.
High-Tech Equipment – A lot of men like working with high-tech equipment, and the ICU is full of the latest developments in medical technology. Men, from their genetic makeup, thrive on learning and doing new things, so it is natural that they will be drawn in to an area that is full of gadgets that help make people well and keep them alive.
Developing Patient Relationships – Most nurses, both male and female, get a lot of satisfaction out of the relationships that they have developed with their patients. Taking care of a person for more than a few days results in a connection, and nurses who enjoy creating and developing these bonds will receive great satisfaction out of caring for the patient, seeing them recover and return home. For nurses who enjoy this part of their job, the ICU is a better choice than the emergency room or a maternity ward, where most patients are in and out so fast that the nurse hardly has time to even remember the patient’s name. Since each nurse is usually in charge of just a couple of patients, not a dozen or more like floor nurses are charged with, nurses get to spend more time and give better attention to their patients.
Not overly welcomed by other units despite measures being taken to move society’s perspective of nursing to that of a profession for both males and females, it is still seen mainly as a gender. Doctors of either gender are referred to as nurses, female nurses are simply called “nurses,” but male nurses are singled out by referring to them by gender. Some hospitals and medical care facilities, or even units in a facility, are not overly welcoming to male nurses, and as such, men do not feel comfortable working there.
The Internet is full of tales of men who prefer ICU, or ER, to floors such as labor and delivery or pediatrics, since they weren’t made to feel welcome by their female counterparts, or the patients. In an article at Nurse Week, Vern Bullough, a registered nurse with a doctorate who also taught at University of Southern California and State University of New York, says that in the past, men were kept out of obstetrics and gynecology and women’s health floors, and while that is no longer the case, few men have ventured into this area of nursing.
Male nurses are allowed to work in any area of the hospital, and some are even choosing to become nurse midwives, an extremely female dominated subset of the profession, but there are some factors that make men feel more comfortable working in the ICU.