Nursing is one of the fastest growing professions in the US, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimating half a million new nursing jobs to be added over the next decade. But demand is outpacing supply, and a major nursing shortage looms on the horizon. That’s why the subject of men in nursing is an important one to explore.
On this page you’ll find statistics about the under-representation of men in nursing and some of the reasons why less than 10 percent of the nursing workforce is male. You’ll also learn how practicing male nurses can help shape the future of the profession and encourage more men to join their ranks.
How many male nurses are there?
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, a leader in health policy analysis and health journalism, there were approximately four million professionally active nurses in the United States as of April 2017. Of those nurses, only 333,530 identified as male. In other words, just nine percent of the total nurse workforce in the US are men. Kaiser also provides information on the gender population of nurses in each state. No states have an equal distribution of gender in nursing, with the ratio of female to male nurses ranging from 5:1 in Hawaii to 16:1 in Iowa.
Male RNs with advanced degrees
Montana State University’s Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies examined data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System. It found:
- The number of male RNS who earned a master’s or doctoral degree in nursing increased from 1,000 to 4,000 between 2003 and 2015
The percentage of male nurses with advanced degrees reflects the percentage of male students enrolled in graduate nursing programs. According to the National League of Nursing (NLN), 13 percent of students enrolled in master’s and doctoral nursing degree programs in 2014 were male.
Gender discrimination with respect to the nursing profession has taken many forms. For example, from 1901 to 1955, only women could serve as nurses in the US military. It wasn’t until President Eisenhower signed the Bolton Act that male nurses could serve in the armed forces. And as late as 1982 men were not allowed to attend some state-sponsored nursing schools, a practice that was deemed unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court (Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan).
The “male nurse” stereotype
In a study developed in conjunction with the California Institute for Nursing and Healthcare, Coalition for Nursing Careers in California and the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, researchers attempted to more clearly articulate issues around the reasons for the small percentage of men in nursing. When asked about special challenges to men who want to pursue nursing careers, most respondents cited stereotypes as the top challenge.
“70% of male nurses think stereotypes are their biggest challenge.”
Looking at some of the responses, one can get an idea of the stereotypes male nurses face and how they must impact the percentage of men in nursing. Consider these responses to the question, what are the misperceptions about nursing?
- “The perception that males working in the nursing care field are there to serve as ‘muscle’ for their female colleagues—lifting patients, mopping floors, etc. Above all, the perception whether male or female, that there is some sex link to the nursing profession.”
- “The effeminate stereotype. That it is not a profession worthy of a male.”
- “One very important misperception is that men are incapable of being caring and nurturing.”
Barriers to gender diversity in nursing
In an article that appeared in the January 2013 edition American Journal of Nursing, authors Brent MacWilliams, Bonnie Schmidt and Michael Bleich examined the ability of the nursing profession to recruit and retain men in nursing schools and in the workforce. They identified challenges faced by men entering or working in the nursing field. Some potential barriers to gender diversity in nursing include:
- Lack of career-oriented support by significant people in the male nursing student’s life
- Lack of male nurse educators
- Lack of male nurse mentors
- Men’s fear of suspect touch when providing care for female patients
- Little or no course content on communication differences between men and women and on men’s contributions to nursing
- Men feeling unwelcome in the clinical setting
- Sex-related bias in obstetric rotations
Nurse educators, mentors and the importance of going back to school
The recommendations for attracting and recruiting more men to the profession are usually directed at nursing schools, but men who are already working in the field also play a role in improving gender equality in nursing. Specifically, male RNs can address two of the barriers mentioned above—lack of male nurse educators and lack of male nurse mentors.
Regarding the first point, data from the NLN reveals the lack of gender representation among nurse educators: just six percent of full-time educators are male. At the same time, the NLN also recognizes the potential for achieving demographic diversity within nursing faculty. According to the NLN Nurse Educator Shortage Fact Sheet, “Untapped resources of talent, from which schools of nursing could nurture replacement for experienced faculty or additional faculty to handle enrollment expansion, are minority populations among the nurse faculty workforce: males and underrepresented racial-ethnic groups.”
What does this mean for men in nursing currently? If you want to become a nurse educator and help shape the future of nursing, you’ll need to go back to school for a graduate degree. Or maybe you want to become a leader in the clinical side of nursing and serve as a mentor to new and aspiring male nurses? A graduate degree should still be in your future.
Nursing scholarships for men
Within nursing, many scholarships focus on minority and underrepresented groups. There is a strong drive to improve the diversity and equality of nursing, and multiple scholarships are available that reflect the growing inclusiveness of the nursing field.
Th Henry Dunant Scholarship was created to honor Henry Dunant, founder of the International Red Cross and Nobel Peace Prize winner who organized, funded and provided nursing care to wounded soldiers after the Battle of Solferino in 1859. The scholarship is available to undergraduate male nursing students enrolled in accredited nursing programs.
This scholarship was created to help more men enter the nursing profession. It’s available to male nursing students actively enrolled in an accredited nursing program. The recipient of Nursing.org’s Scholarship for Men in Nursing will show outstanding character, confidence and ability in nursing. In addition to a 500-1000 word essay, applicants must also answer questions related to volunteer activities, outside hobbies and the role nurses play in the world.
Advancing Men in Nursing (AAMN) is a national organization that encourages men in the United States to become nurses and provides resources for male nurses to grow professionally. AAMN offers multiple nursing scholarships for men, but only when funds are sufficiently available through the generosity of AAMN members and select groups of donors. Scholarship categories include:
- Pre-licensure nursing students (associate’s degree, BSN, master’s entry to practice)
- Academic progression in nursing (RN to BSN)
- Graduate nursing students (RN to MSN, RN to DNP, PhD in Nursing)
Check the AAMN scholarship page for available scholarships.
In addition to these scholarships for men in nursing, there are countless other scholarships and grants that men can apply for to help fund their nursing education.
|Undergraduate||$2,000||A Nurse I Am Scholarship|
|Undergraduate||Varies||Annette McClanahan Harrison Endowed Nursing Scholarship|
|Undergraduate||$1,000||Barbara Rhomberg Excellence in Nursing Scholarship|
|Undergraduate||$10,000||Genesis Health Services Foundation|
|Undergraduate||Varies||Catching the Dream MESBEC Program|
|Graduate||$5,000||Nursing Economics Foundation Scholarship|
|Graduate||Varies||Nurse Educational Funds|
|Graduate||$40,000||McNeil Rural Scholarship|
|Graduate||$5,000||Edwina Foye Award for Outstanding Graduate Student|
|Graduate||$10,000||AfterCollege and AACN Scholarship Fund|
Studies, reports and literature on men in nursing
- Meet the Men Who Dare to Care
- Men in Nursing: Their Influence in a Female Dominated Career
- Male Nurses Break Through Barriers to Diversify Profession
- Study: Who are the Men in Nursing?
- Current Trends of Men in Nursing
- Job Satisfaction and Career Development of Men in Nursing
- Diversity in Nursing: Male Nurses & Minorities
- Just Call Us Nurses: Men in Nursing
Online RN to MSN Degree Program
If you’re an RN, find out how you can earn a Master’s of Nursing in as little as two years.