Friday, October 21, 2011

Working as a Male Nurse in a Gender-Biased World

If you’re working as a male nurse, you know the odds are stacked against you. Women, who have been monopolizing this role for decades, may resent you stepping into their employment territory, especially in this economic downturn. The media pokes fun of male nurses, and a lot of older folks don’t trust a male nurse. However, you can shine in your position if you take the following steps:

Show Off Your Strengths
One of your primary strengths is probably exactly that—physical capability. Offer to help other nurses with the physically challenging duties such as moving patients, lifting equipment, and carrying supplies. You may also be one of those men who possess admirable emotional strength, which will come in handy in your position as well. Be ready to step in when tempers flare or drama floods your floor. You can be the source of strength your core group of nurses relies upon.

Overdo Professionalism
You can’t take professionalism too far in this role. It’s too easy for some homophobic old guy to accuse you of inappropriately changing his bedpan or some suspicious woman to accuse you of leaning into her in a sexual way while you moved her from her gurney to her hospital bed. You’ve got to be on your guard at all times to make sure you:
  • Treat others with respect, even if the patients (or visitors) are not respectful of you
  • Use professional medical language
  • Ask permission when appropriate
  • Explain what you are doing and why you are doing it before you perform your nursing duties, especially if those actions could possibly be misconstrued
  • Get another nurse in the room with you if you have to perform any task on a patient who you suspect might not trust you

Develop a Sense of Humor
Sure, there are going to be guys who take pot shots at you and other nurses who might not give you the respect you’re due until you’ve worked with them awhile. Still, it never helps to be defensive or sour-natured. Come up with a few dismissive lines and learn to laugh off anything that smacks of an insult. Remind yourself that in time, you’ll show both your coworkers and your patients who you are: a strong male nurse who can carry them across the room, handle their breakdowns, and drug ‘em up so they feel better again. What’s not to love?

Erinn Stam is the Managing Editor for scholarships for nursing students. She attends Wake Technical Community College and is learning about nursing scholarships for men. She lives in Durham, NC with her lovely 4-year-old daughter and exuberant husband.