9 Ways Nursing Programs Are Attracting More Men

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The Campaign for Nursing’s Future notes that men make up only 6% of the nursing industry, though job availability is estimated to increase by 22% over the span of a few years. It just might come to pass that many positions may very well remain empty due to a shortage of students entering nursing school. One way to ensure graduation rates catch up to open positions involves something the healthcare profession has needed to do for quite some time now — close the gender gap. Because of its status as a female-dominated industry since the latter half of the 20th century, so many men feel as if entering into a noble nursing career somehow compromises their masculinity. After all, womenfolk are the ones meant to be all into that touchy-feely stuff! Men are doctors! Harumph!


Truth be told, your sex doesn’t dictate anything about nursing acumen. It’s all about skill sets incapable of discriminating along any sort of arbitrary lines. Anyone with the desire and abilities to succeed in nursing should pursue nursing, end of story. But men still find themselves marginalized and made fun of all the same, no thanks to some nasty and wrongheaded stereotyping from inside and outside the industry. Combating this means gradually shifting cultural norms and opportunities toward equitability — the main goal of the American Assembly of Men in Nursing’s 20 x 20 initiative — before students even reach nursing school. Nursing schools now more than ever, are applying their resources towards luring in more men in order to diversify the industry and dissolve the stigma once and for all.

  1. Promoting male mentors:

    The nursing program at University of Washington kept experienced, passionate alumn Bob Chapman on hand “as a part-time student outreach coordinator” destigmatizing male nurses. He shared stories from his career, highlighting how rewarding it feels to show compassion and empathy towards ailing patients — such emotions should be considered human, not feminine. And, being a man, he provided insight on working as a frequently marginalized minority in a given field that his female counterparts could not. Giving young men a mentor figure to turn to and ask questions alleviates much of the stress, anxiety, and stigma associated with entering the nursing field as a member of the dudely masses.

  2. Launching ad campaigns:

    When in doubt, issue a challenge to America’s propensity toward insecure masculinity! The “Are You Man Enough to be a Nurse?” campaign launched at the Oregon Center for Nursing in 2002 in order to encourage more men to sign up for nursing school. Two years later, they released the comparatively less confrontational “Caring Knows No Boundaries” poster and — as with its predecessor — distributed it to schools and healthcare facilities in Oregon around the world. Members of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) apparently still talk about this advertising push fondly, with many appreciating the small uptick in numbers following their implementation.

  3. Being honest:

    University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania and Howard University in Washington, D.C. both increased the number of men enrolling in their nursing programs by doing something most individuals and organizations these days tend to struggle with — telling the truth. Explaining the realities of the nursing profession versus the popular misconceptions and misrepresentations (thanks, mass media!) piqued more curiosity than projecting a romanticized image. While both initiatives stressed the importance of TLC — a woefully traditional “feminine” trait — in a successful nurse, they appealed to a broader audience of applicants by highlighting all the different career paths graduates could possibly take, many of which, of course, might have never occurred to men accustomed to more stereotypical perspectives.

  4. Increasing admission requirements:

    Another strategy employed by University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing in its quest for gender equitability simply involved boosting its requirements for acceptance. Male students with a flair for the mathematical and scientific found their emphasis on high achievement within these fields a particular draw. While not as “IN! YOUR! FACE!” as the Oregon Center for Nursing ad campaigns, this stands as another tactic turning and twisting narrow social perceptions of what it means to be a man into valid progress.

  5. Offering scholarships:

    Guidance counselors and search engines can dredge up more scholarship opportunities than the included link by the Campaign for Nursing’s Future, obviously! For male students wringing their hands over whether to apply to nursing school, knowing they could snag themselves some sweet, sweet free funding could easily sway them down medicine way. The competition would prove less grueling than entrance into more traditionally male-dominated fields (for now, at least). The nursing schools would educate a more diverse range of students. The male nursing students and nurses of the world would experience a further chipping away at the unfair stigmas levied onto their career choices as their numbers swell. Everyone wins!

  6. Being the military:

    The Armed Forces currently provide one of the very few outlets where male nurses experience far less disrespect and marginalization than their civilian peers. In fact, the Army actively encourages high school students involved in ROTC programs to enlist after graduation and receive a thorough education in hospital and battlefield medical protocol. Compared to a college or university degree plan, pursuing this route provides significantly more intensive hands-on experience — a fact the organization plays up in its recruitment literature. Once again, couching everything in arbitrary “manspeak” proves key in closing the nursing gender gap.

  7. Providing application assistance:

    Mentorship and building relationships with male student coordinators resonate before, during, and after nursing school admissions. Some schools, such as University of Washington, provide additional support as students fill out their forms. Administrators call (or otherwise regularly contact) them with reminders and make themselves available for personal or remote meetings whenever possible. Forging a community instills confidence in their choices and a sense of belonging, which counteracts some of the apprehension and negativity that come with working as a gender (in some cases, gender and racial) minority in the nursing industry.

  8. Creating inclusive environments:

    AAMN named Duke University one of the top nursing schools in the United States in 2010, and it attained such an honor with a rather simple tweak to the surrounding educational environment. Specifically, making men play an integral part in the faculty and ensuring coursework includes and acknowledges the contributions of male professionals who’ve historically left an impact on the industry. Nursing students who happen to be men find this approach far more welcoming, and it slices away stigma by maintaining awareness that the women workers are not the only ones capable of succeeding in and contributing to the field. A properly well-rounded education blasts away stereotypes and reveals the inherent humanity underneath — and isn’t preserving inherent humanity what nursing is all about?

  9. Changing pronouns:

    Following a convening of male nursing professionals at University of Texas Health Science Center, the school’s enrollment of males seeking a degree in the field eventually grew to 30%! It employed many different tactics to achieve this unprecedented (but not unwelcome!) swelling, many of which are related here already. One, however, proved subtle and wholly effective. Rather than using the pronoun “she” in promotional materials, the school switched over to “he or she” or sometimes “he” for variety’s sake. They also rewrote and reworked their recruitment toward a more gender-inclusive approach. Nothing favored females, nor males, and this broader scope led to diversified classroom spaces.

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