In a field that has been dominated by females since the time of Florence Nightingale, it is safe to stay we are still outnumbered even today. I’ll keep the history lesson short, but I feel like not mentioning it would be a disservice. Male nursing has been around for centuries, with roles including caring for troops during the crusades, serving battlefield hospitals during the Franco Prussian War in 1870, and even on the frontlines during World War I.
During WWI male nurses were known as “orderlies” and were held to a lower standard than their female counterparts even receiving lower pay at that time. Males nurses were not even legally recognized until the Nurse Register Act that was passed in 1919 and even then, males were placed on a separate registry. It was not until WWII that males worked side by side with females in civilian and military hospital settings, breaking down that barrier that has led up to male nursing today. Now let’s get into the differences I’ve noticed as a male travel nurse.
We are the Minority:
One of the most obvious differences of being a male travel nurse is that we are the minority by a long shot. Being the minority in a job field makes you more marketable to employers. Typically, hospital units are trying to find a balance in the gender ratio so if there is an opportunity to do this, they take advantage of it. In translation, it is much easier to find a job when you are a minority in a profession.
As a male nurse, I have also noticed that patients can sometimes perceive my role as something other than a nurse. There have been many occasions where I have gone into a room and I am automatically assumed to be the doctor. In a predominately female profession, it is understandable why this may be assumed so I try to introduce myself and explain my role as soon as I enter a patient’s room.
Thrown into the Ring:
I’ve often been asked by fellow nurses and coworkers to help assist with combative or argumentative patients. Although this isn’t right, certain patients seem to think that they can speak to or treat female nurses in a disrespectful way. There has been more than one situation I’ve been involved in where tensions have been high with a patient and things start looking like they could go from argumentative to combative quickly. I have been able to help deescalate the situation and keep everyone involved safe.
Every nurse in their career will get an assignment that makes you rethink every decision you have ever made in life regardless of gender, but as a male nurse, it isn’t out of the ordinary to be given the heaviest assignment on the floor. This doesn’t happen at every hospital, every shift, every time, but I’ve noticed that male nurses definitely are given more difficult patients whether it be those who are combative, belligerent, or even just a high acuity patient that is total care. On more than one occasion, I have had female charge nurses say, “I gave you these patients because I figured a male nurse could handle them better.”… two alcohol withdrawals, one psych patient, one determined to be intubated at the bedside, and thirteen hours later you realize you have to come back the next day and do it all over again.
Other than the things above that were mentioned, I don’t see any other differences between being a male nurse and a female nurse. I think mainly because no matter what gender, race, religion, or background we all can come to the simple understanding that we became nurses to help and care for others. There is that unspoken bond nurses have with each other that people in most other lines of work don’t experience. It is this bond that brings us together and helps us carry our fellow nurses through the good shifts, the bad shifts, and everything in between.
If you would like to read some pros and cons of being a male travel nurse click here.