On the Nursing Typecast and Jobs

I’ve mentioned before that I am studying to become a nurse. Most people are astonished and surprised at the concept of a male trying to become a nurse. I get surprised looks even at the school I am attending whenever I mention what I am studying to someone new I meet. I’ve long known that nursing has been a career typecast as a woman’s job but that has never bothered me in the slightest. I do have the desire to become a doctor however I do not have the financial resources or the desire to spend so much time and money away from my family. With nursing, I can study further and get a PhD in nursing and still manage to get a lot done as a nurse in both the direct medical field and management. There is still the matter of the career being typecast.

Jobs can be typecast in different ways, said Neil Gross and Ethan Fosse, who undertook the study. For instance, less than 6 percent of nurses today are men. Discrimination against male candidates  may be a factor, but the primary reason for the disparity is that most people consider nursing to be a woman’s career, Mr. Gross said. That means not many men aspire to become nurses in the first place — a point made in the recent Lee Daniels film “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.” When John (Lenny Kravitz) asks the 16-year-old Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) and her friends  whether they’ve ever seen a male nurse before, all answer no amid giddy laughter. – Patricia Cohen, NYT

The only thing that bothers me about nursing being typecast as a woman’s job is that there could be many more male nurses in the field filling up the many nursing jobs that are open. That is, in fact, a very serious problem in the nursing field.

It’s been described as the worst nursing shortage in American history. Research suggests that at this rate we will be short one-third the number of nurses needed by 2020. A major factor is that enrollment dropped significantly in nursing schools from 1995-2000.Elizabeth Donatelli, Newsplex.com

Despite years of concern, the recession that began in December 2007 has led to a surge of misleading reports that the lack of nursing jobs in the field means the nursing shortage is over. In truth, the nursing shortage is still there, hidden behind the veil of fewer job openings. Hospitals and clinics are still understaffed for the number of patients that come through their buildings, nurses are still heavily burdened with too much work and too little time to take care of both their patients and the paperwork required by insurers and state and federal governments, and nurses are still working long hours and double or triple shifts at a time. The shortage is long-term, temporally masked by a shortage of funds in hospitals across the country due to the increasing loss of insured patients.

The supposed non-shortage of nurses will disappear completely once the job market begins to flourish and unemployment goes down (thus the number of uninsured in the country). That’s where men could break through the typecasting and go for a nursing career. As a matter of fact, it would be a boon to the country if nursing education were to become more available to the unemployed — it would be an excellent career choice for those who have been jobless and have little prospect for a return to their previous jobs, many of which will never come back, and for those who want to do something different. The only problem with that idea is the nursing field will still be an undesirable career choice until the recession is over — but that is, all points considered, still only a temporal setback. The jobs will return — they have to — whether hospital budgets like it or not.

There is, of course, the other problem that comes into play in educating the future nursing workforce: the educators themselves.

In the midst of a national nursing shortage, Indiana nursing programs rejected about 2,500 qualified applicants because of a lack of full-time faculty, according to a survey of state nursing programs.

The 2008 survey by the Indiana Nursing Workforce Development Coalition said faculty shortages prevent nursing programs from maintaining a supply of qualified applicants. – Sarah Tompkins, NWI.com

Despite the recession, “the U.S. nursing shortage is projected to grow to 260,000 registered nurses by 2025”, according to the American Association of Colleges of Nursing nursing shortage factsheet. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont has fought to include provisions in the proposed health care reform bill, headed by the Democratic party, to fund the increase of nurses and doctors in the medical field to increase the availability of health care to those who find it difficult to get care. This is all well and good but if the education system is not moving with the speed the country is moving in, the nursing shortage is still going to be there in 2025 and I will still be one of the few 6% of male nurses in the United States.


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