Men in Nursing

Advertising is so focused on just the one stereotypical nurse, and on compassion and caring. But there are so many more options that I think men just don’t know about. Brett Weir, DNP '19, RN
Mentoring is key because it gives men someone to model themselves after. But there’s still work to do. I would’ve considered nursing a long time ago, but I didn’t know many men who were doing it. Hershaw Davis Jr., MS, BSN '09, RN
I knew going in [to nursing] that it was a predominantly female profession. I decided I can either make it an issue or not make it an issue. I’ve never made it an issue and I think as a result no one else has made it an issue either. Carl Miller, DNSc, MS ’60, RN
For me, work-life balance was important. I didn’t want to just drown in my career. [The draw was] the flexible schedule, the variety of the profession, and a way to help people. Robert West, BSN ’14, BA, RN
I believe nursing has no barrier of age, gender, and nationality. Rather, it values cultural assets including diversity and inclusion, and this opens the door for immigrants like me to dream, make great connections, and build credibility. YoungHo Kim, MSN '19, BEd

Hershaw Davis Jr., MSN, BSN '09, RN, clinical instructor, reflects on his introduction to the nursing profession, how he found his way to emergency nursing, and slow but steady progress in increasing diversity in the nursing profession.

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A Changing Mentality

As male nurses, the men above are members of a significant minority that nevertheless has a growing presence in the profession. Around 12% of nurses in the U.S. today are men, a number that has grown steadily since 1960, when that number was 2%. And at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, 12% of our nursing students identify as male.

This number is only poised to grow at UMSON and nationally, as the door for men to enter the nursing profession has never been more wide open.

5 Reasons Why Men Choose Nursing:

1. A rewarding career.

The bottom line is that you’ll help people. As a nurse, you can make a difference — that’s an incredibly rewarding feeling that isn’t found in every career. As a nurse, you'll apply your best skills, abilities, and interests in one of the most ethical, valued, and trusted professions. (For more than 20 years, nursing has been ranked the most trusted profession, according to the annual Gallup poll on honesty and ethics).

2. Less stigma.

Things change: Shifts in cultural expectations and perceptions of gender roles are taking place. Today, the overwhelming majority of patients do not care about their nurse's gender, and providers are becoming more aware of the benefits of employing male nurses, such as making male-identifying patients feel represented. Some patients may even prefer male nurses!

3. Lots of flexibility and career advancement options.

Data shows that a large factor in the increase in male nurses is men transferring into nursing from other professions while in their 20s and early 30s. A big part of the draw to the profession for any nurse is flexibility: In addition to flexible work hours that allow for better work-life balance, there are varied options for practice setting and area of specialty, as well as countless opportunities for career advancement and additional education.

 4. An attractive salary. 

Unemployed men who move into female-dominated careers — including nursing — tend to see around a 4% rise in their pay, according to Minority Nurse. And overall, the 2019 median pay for registered nurses was $73,300 per year, much higher than the median annual wage for all workers, which was $39,810, according to the BLS. 

 5. Solid job growth.

Traditionally male-dominated fields, such as those in manufacturing, are shrinking while the nursing shortage has created demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects to see a 12% job growth for registered nurses between 2018 and 2028. Hiring men is a crucial way to find qualified nurses and meet this demand. 

Read more about the history of men in nursing and why nursing is a great career choice for men below.

The Fall and Rise of Men in Nursing

A look in the history books shows that men have long been caregivers of the sick. They provided nursing care in ancient Rome, during the bubonic plague epidemic, and as part of early religious orders. In fact, caretaking is a historically male-dominated field that relatively recently swung in the opposite direction.

It was Florence Nightingale who firmly established nursing as a woman’s occupation in the 19th century. She claimed “every woman is a nurse” and targeted them for training. At the time, nursing was one of few careers that welcomed women, and men had been leaving the field for more lucrative careers spurred by the Industrial Revolution. The nursing profession – once thought to rely on physical strength and bravery – became synonymous with “women’s work.” Eventually, the field became so gendered that men were barred from serving in the Army Nurse Corps during the two world wars, and few nursing schools welcomed them.

Historical Gains for Men in Nursing

1930: American Nursing Association accepts men

1955: Army Nurse Corps commissions its first male officer

1971: National Male Nurses Association* forms

1982: U.S. Supreme Court rules Mississippi University for Women School of Nursing’s single-sex admissions policy unconstitutional

*Now known as the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, which has a student chapter at UMSON

Male Nurses Nationwide Today

  • 11% are registered nurses (RNs)
  • 70% of male RNs work in hospitals
  • 13% have baccalaureate nursing degrees
  • 10% have master’s or doctoral degrees

Center for Interdisciplinary Health Workforce Studies, 2017

Men in Nursing at UMSON

The mentality toward male nurses began to shift at UMSON in 1959, when Hector Cardellino, MS, BSN ’61, RN, became the first male undergraduate student to be admitted to the School. The former Navy corpsman was taking classes at the University of Maryland, College Park when an advisor asked him if he had considered a career in nursing. After learning of Cardellino’s interest, then-School of Nursing Dean Florence Gipe supposedly said, “Sign that boy right up!”

Today, men make up 12% of the student population at UMSON, in keeping with the national average of 12%.

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