Being a male nurse can come with some pretty unique challenges – but also some pretty awesome perks. I asked male nurses if they had any insight or advice for guys getting ready to become registered nurses. So, let’s go through some pieces of advice for male nursing students – from a guy!
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What Percentage of Nurses are Male?
According to the most recent data available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2020), men make up approximately 11.9% of registered nurses (RNs) in the United States. However, this percentage may vary depending on the country and region. In some countries, such as Japan and South Korea, the percentage of male nurses is higher, while in others, such as Canada and the United Kingdom, it is lower.
This means that there are approximately 330,000 male registered nurses (RNs) in the United States as of May 2020. (This number has likely changed since, but it’s a good ballpark!)
Advice for Male Nursing Students
It is important to note that I am not a male nurse. Therefore, I asked some male nurses if they had any insight on this. Below are some points of enlightenment from one of my Twitter buddies, Ryan Mitchell (@rymitch18) plus a few others. I added my own points of enlightenment after his (which is basically just me agreeing with him). Enjoy!
Don’t Sleep With Classmates or Coworkers
The first piece of advice they gave was to avoid mixing business with pleasure.
“Do not sleep with classmates or coworkers… if things don’t work out (they almost certainly won’t) … everything gets awkward. I didn’t, but classmates did. I’ll admit it was fun to watch their misery.”
Kati here. Yes, I definitely agree with him here. Over the years, I’ve seen classmates and coworkers hook up. I’ve literally seen marriages break up… people changing jobs because of affairs… and people having a regrettable hook-up with someone they see literally every day at work or school.
As far as nursing school goes, most nursing classes aren’t a lot of people. Also, you end up being in the same classes with these people for years, so if you start a relationship in your first few months and it doesn’t work out, you’re stuck with them for another 3.5 years.
Know Your Female Counterparts Will Need Your Help
There are various dicey situations we can get into at work that can go much smoother with the assistance of a male nurse. We’ve all had that male patient who is very capable of doing things, but suddenly is unable to hold his own urinal and wants the 22 year-old female nurse to hold it for him.
You may also run across situations with patients attempting to intimidate younger and more petite female nurses. Or, maybe your assistance is needed with moving a larger patient.
Regardless, you may need to come in and assist. A great tactic for the male patient trying to get the female nurse to hold his urinal or adjust his catheter is to say, “Hold on, I’ll be right back!” and send a male nurse into the room. Suddenly, the capability of holding their own urinal will magically return.
Also, there are some patients that will only listen to men. I’ve had some patients that refuse to listen to anything I say. I then go ask my male nurse coworker and explain the situation, they go and talk to the patient, and then they listen. Some people are just like that and during my shift I’m not going to change their perspective on life. I’m not here to change their belief system, religion, or outlook. I’m here to provide nursing care.
Next, it’s a wise move to be trustworthy and maintain your integrity.
“Be ‘that guy’ that everyone can depend on. Keep your gossip in check; there’s plenty going around on a typical unit. Be the trusted listener.”
Kati Kleber. There is so, so much unnecessary gossip that flies around the nurse’s station. I beg of you: Don’t get involved. Don’t engage people when they start talking negatively about coworkers. That’s why I love working with guys, they don’t talk or want to talk about who is sleeping with who, who is lazy, how broke people are… we just quote The Office back and forth for 12 hours, which is much more entertaining.
Being a trusted listener is the best and least stressful place to be.
Read and Learn Often
Once you get into a nursing job, you can dig deep into the specifics of that patient population and become a resource on the unit.
“Read, read, read. Twitter is a fantastic learning hub. Eventually, people will notice that you are generally prepared for anything you face.”
Kati again. The more you read/know, the less you freak out, the easier your shift is. It feels a lot better being able to be knowledgeable and someone others feel they can go to and get solid help and information from.
Don’t let the anxiety of being a male nurse get to you.
“Sexism only exists if you let it. Patients who initially feel hesitant with a male RN will relax when you demonstrate confident professionalism!”
Kati here. You may run into patients who don’t want to have a male nurse. The few times I’ve had that happen was with female patients requiring care that involved their perineal area and had a history of sexual abuse (which is completely understandable). I’ve never had a patient refuse a male nurse because the patient felt they would be incompetent or uncaring.
Avoid Using Pet Names With Patients
Be professional and always avoid calling patients cute pet names. This will prevent you from experiencing awkward interactions or unnecessary offense.
“Never, ever call a patient honey, dear, sweetie, love. It’s unprofessional and straight up weird when a guy says it! Refer to the patient by their name.”
(Kati.) This is just a good rule all-around. I’ve met people that despise being called those names (and I hate it too, actually). While there are some people who like those names, the majority of people do not appreciate being called that by their professional healthcare providers. Some will just ignore it, but some will snap back and say something like, “I’m not your honey!” and boy does that take the wind out of your sales!
On that note, don’t ask any adults if they need to “potty,” or use language like that. (Parents, I know it can be really difficult to do this, but it’s important!)
Introduce Yourself With A Handshake
“I always introduce myself to patients with a handshake. Works for guys like me who may not always feel comfortable with the touchy side of nursing. That being said, you’ll learn when a reassuring pat on the shoulder, or pull up a chair, sit down and hold a hand is needed. Don’t be distant!”
Kati: I actually introduce myself with a handshake to my patients and their loved ones. It sets a really professional tone for your shift that they appreciate. You can go from feeling like a mousey insecure student or new nurse, to a confident professional nurse in an instant.
Do Male Nurses Get Paid More?
Depending on the source, male nurses can make anywhere from $4,000-$10,000 more than their female counterparts. Some mitigating factors can include that men tend to be more likely to negotiate for higher pay, take on leadership roles, or be in nursing positions with higher base pay.
Nursing Students Resources
- Pharmacology Tips For Nursing Students
- Medication Administration Basics for Nursing Students
- How to Pass Nursing School Exams
- How to Survive Nursing School Masterpost
- Test Taking Strategies for Nursing Students
Getting ready for nursing school clinicals, but feeling unprepared?
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