Today in the chart

Calling All Men: Not Just the 12%

How do we bring more men into nursing? TNB Board Member, Fred Neis, shares his thoughts.

Credit: Herzing University

I am a nurse. More to the point, I am a male nurse. My career has been more than unscripted and unexpected. It has been amazingly rewarding and given me opportunities to deliver care in ways I couldn’t have thought of at graduation. 

My career started near the end of high school when I attended a night class to become an EMT. I stepped back for a semester in my junior year, completed paramedic training, and then returned to finish my BSN. Fast forward to later in my career when I took clinical roles in ICUs, EDs, and a helicopter program. After graduate school, I moved into leadership roles as a director of emergency services. That move gave me experience in a wide variety of healthcare operations, from clinical to financial and even strategy, and eventually into positions as a consultant and advisor. I’ve also been an educator, author (Emergency Department Manager’s Survival Guide, Strauss and Mayer’s Emergency Department Management, Future of Emergency Care Set), conference speaker, and board member. 

And I’m not done yet.

The statistics may sound familiar; Nurses are the most trusted profession in the US year after year. Men represent 12% of the current RN workforce, which has increased from about 7% when I started my career. Johnson & Johnson (J&J) has invested time, money, and campaigns to highlight men in nursing and the impact we can make. One of my favorite commercials highlighting men in nursing was produced by J&J. Surprisingly. At the same time, there is a projected shortage of RNs for the next several years; it’s projected that by 2035, we’ll have an adequate supply with the caveat of geographic distribution issues. To hit those projections, we’ll need faculty for nursing schools, which is a role in high demand. We have plenty of applicants and we're turning many away.

What does this mean for us as nurses in terms of attracting men to the profession? We need to capitalize on the trust bestowed upon us by the public and get a jump start on bringing more men into nursing to help balance the workforce. The American Association for Men in Nursing is dedicated to promoting the field and enhancing our presence. 

While there are countless advantages to being a nurse, I’d like men thinking about pursuing a nursing career to consider the following:

  • Make a Difference: With a single interaction, we can impact the life of someone, and that impact stretches to those around them. We are invited into people’s lives during some of the most stressful moments. 
  • Diverse Career Opportunities: Nursing is a stable career choice with rising demand. The wide array of positions, from clinical to education, leadership, research, business, and technology, is nearly limitless. Plus, the portability of moving from one role to another and even into another geographic area with relative ease makes our job attractive. 
  • Financial Stability and Incentives: Salaries, benefits, and chances for advancement are all draws. With variable work schedules, this can be highly attractive to men.

I want to challenge nurses who are men to consider the following:

  • Define Your “Why” and “How”: Define why you became a nurse and how you create value within the healthcare ecosystem. Whatever your role today. Every position move required me to reframe. As a nurse, I deliver care to people (my “why”). Today, I am working to ensure the leaders and teams have the competencies and cultural features to deliver care in a high-reliability environment (my “how”). 
  • Manage Your Brand: Every interaction, whether at work or not, represents you and nursing in general. You are the best ambassador for nurses and yourself. Protect the brand by demonstrating your commitment to solving the issues (i.e., staffing, culture, safe practice, financial performance) and creating the best-in-class healthcare delivery system for people. 
  • Forever Curious: Be a constant learner and take risks with new opportunities. Say “yes” when offered a chance to do something for your facility. Join a professional organization. Participate in educational offerings, find a mentor (or two), and grow your network. It takes effort and pays off in the long term. Eventually, others will seek you to help others grow in their career and personal brand.
  • Actively Recruit: Help get men interested in nursing early in school, even as early as middle school. Our children are curious about what we do. Share it with them. Go back to your alma mater and share your story. Your brand can help recruit and retain other top nurses and talent at work. You are a critical part of the culture you want to work in.
  • Understand the Business of Healthcare: From my perspective, it’s one of the largest knowledge gaps between nurses and the healthcare industry. Nurses are the largest expense on a health system’s balance sheet. To remain relevant and critical to the company’s success, learn how we create value and revenue. Then, be active within the team to articulate and demonstrate through actions and data.
  • Care for Thyself: It may seem overplayed in the media, but it’s for a good reason. Do not neglect yourself. Skipping meals and breaks during a shift is not an Olympic sport. Don’t train for it. Outside of work, find what fills your soul and commit. Whether it’s exercise, creating art, reading, being in the company of others, a massage, whatever. Make time to do it. This is a selfish moment. We have work schedules. Have a personal schedule.

As men in the nursing profession, I don’t think we are any more uniquely positioned than our female counterparts to be representatives of the vocation. However, we are responsible for promoting the profession and showcasing our contributions to bring more men to the role. There is no shortage of issues in our field that could use our help; our greatest obligation is the people we serve. Let’s promote our profession and attract more men to join us. 

Subscribe to our M-F newsletter
Thank you for subscribing! Welcome to The Nursing Beat!
Please enter your email address