Millions of men and women are employed in the healthcare industry. Hospitals in the United States, and the doctors and nurses that staff those hospitals and other medical facilities are among the best in the world. When you take a closer look at the makeup of physicians and registered nurses who work in hospitals and emergency rooms, you will see that the ratio between male and female physicians is skewed toward males and those who are registered nurses are overwhelmingly female.
More Male Physicians and Female Registered Nurses (RNs)
In 2011, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are approximately 822,000 physicians practicing in the United States, 33% of them are female, and 67% are male. Even more disparate is the percentage of female registered nurses compared to male registered nurses. About 2.7 million men and women are registered nurses, but only 8.9% are male and the remaining 91.1% are female.
As more men enter the nursing field and help reduce the national shortage of nurses, hospitals and others who need nurses are competing for their services. Nationally, men are paid a slightly higher salary than women working at the same position. Maybe it is because hospitals want to increase the percentage of male nurses or maybe it is because they still believe that men are more valuable than their female counterparts?
Future Trends Show Percentage of Male Nurses Increasing
Currently, all male nurses represent only 5.8% of the total number of nurses. While female nurses will continue to be dominant in the healthcare industry, males are definitely making inroads into the imbalance between the two sexes. Projections indicate that male nurses are gaining about two percentage points each year and by the year 2020, are expected to represent roughly 25% of all nurses.
Perceptions and Misconceptions about Male Nurses
It is still unusual for a hospital patient to encounter more than one or two male nurses during an extended stay in the hospital. While one is more likely to run into a male nurse in the ER, when they are checked into their room, almost all of the nurses who take care of them are female. Having a male nurse is still, not as normal or as acceptable as having a female nurse.
Patients sometimes confuse a male nurse for a doctor. They may give more respect to a young male nurse then a more experienced and qualified female nurse. While younger patients tend to be more accepting of males, seniors have a more ingrained belief that nurses should be females.
Perceptions and misconceptions can make the workplace more difficult for men who choose careers in the nursing profession. Whispers and remarks can be heard about male nurses being gay. Others believe that men who become nurses are really only men who could not make it as a doctor. Some female patients refuse to have a male nurse examine them and request to have a female assigned to their care.
Gender Gap Narrows in the Emergency Room
If you have ever been rushed to the emergency room because you are having a heart attack or have suffered some other extremely serious illness or injury, you do not really care if the nurses who help save your life are male or female. Care in the ER is not so much about bedside manner as it is about knowing exactly what a patient needs. Your technical knowledge is crucial, while your smile is nice, but not the most important thing at the time.
More male nurses find this type of working environment more rewarding. Patients and the relatives and friends of patients, are far less judgmental of ER nurses who happen to be male, than they are of the male nurse who works the midnight shift. Somehow, it is okay if the male RN is administering medicine or assisting a physician, but, it is questionable if a man is taking a patient’s temperature or changing the dressing on a wound.
ER nurses, male or female, may like the challenge of dealing with emergency situations. Opportunity to earn more than a staff nurse leads more men to apply for positions in the ER. As perceptions change and people realize that gender has nothing to do with the level of care, male nurses will become less of a minority.