The Louisville Cardinal

Men as RNs: diversity increases in the School of Nursing

The national average for men in the field of nursing is slim – only 9 percent of practicing RNs are male, reports the American Nurses Association.

But undergrads at U of L are working to slowly increase this number.

One year ago, 12 percent of undergraduate nursing students at U of L were male. In fall 2014, the male enrollment jumped to 14.4 percent.

“There is an effort in the nursing profession to assure a diverse workforce that is representative of the populations for whom we care,” says Ruth Staten, associate dean for undergraduate programs in the School of Nursing.

According to fall enrollment data from U of L’s School of Nursing, 65 of the 449 upper division nursing students are male. This number includes students on the Louisville and Owensboro campuses who are pursing their BSN, accelerated 2nd degree or RN-BSN.

One male nursing student, Jake St Germain, says that the imbalance of men and women in the profession is not something he dwells upon.

“My cohort has 6 males out of 60, but it is not something that I really give much thought to anymore. I do not think the rest of the males do either. It comes up as a topic of jokes every once in a while,” says St Germain.

In the 1970s, only 2.7 percent of nurses were male, says a report by the U.S. Census Bureau, and in 1981, the U.S. Supreme Court deemed it unconstitutional for nursing schools to bar males from enrolling in nursing programs because of their sex.

St Germain sees that stereotypes about men in nursing still exist.

“I have been jokingly called a ‘murse’ a few times. When I mention my major, some people ask me if I have seen Meet the Fockers because ‘that dude was a murse, wasn’t he?’ Other than that, I have experienced nothing but encouragement from the people in my life.”

Perhaps with more males in the profession, this stereotype will be on its way out.

“I think some of the changes in the way that the general population, through campaigns and marketing views nursing as a profession, have increased the interest in nursing as a career for men and women as well as other minorities. We work to assure that our materials and our recruitment reflect the desire of diversity in our school and our profession,” says Staten.

St Germain says that it is “not necessarily” important to him to have more males interested in the nursing program.

“It takes a lot to be in this program and profession. As long as the student or nurse genuinely cares about the patient and is willing to work hard, I do not see gender being an important factor. In fact, males have a harder time because cultural restraints keep us from treating certain patients. I have spent a few clinical hours just sitting because men are not allowed to see, touch or talk to women in certain cultures.”

Over the years, St Germain has seen the number of males in his program changing.

“Grades or other complications have made a few of my male classmates have to drop out or retake classes. Although, the same can be said about a handful of female students as well.”

There is a need for new nurses in the growing field of healthcare, male or female. A report from the U.S. Census Bureau predicts a shortage of RNs in the future.

U of L School of Nursing reported the number of male undergraduate students to the Board of Trustees at the Jan. 15 meeting.