Only 12 percent of nurses are men. Raising that number would benefit not only the healthcare profession, but men themselves, Bloomberg editors suggested in an April 6 viewpoint piece.
There are several benefits to recruiting more male nurses, according to the editors. More obviously, it would help fill gaps in the hurting healthcare workforce; less obviously, it would keep men in jobs during a period where their overall workforce participation is diminishing. Male nurses would increase diversity in the female-dominated field, which could positively affect male patients — particularly teenage boys, who have a harder time confiding in female nurses and are facing a mental health crisis.
It has been historically difficult to attract men to the profession, which is traditionally viewed as feminine. But that does not mean the gender scales can never balance, the editors say.
“To start, lawmakers should follow the tested model of encouraging women in STEM,” they wrote. “Recent legislation, for example, directed the National Science Foundation to channel more of its K-12 funding to elementary and pre-K-age students to encourage STEM careers earlier in the pipeline.”
Nursing schools could also employ tactics used to pique women and girls’ interest in STEM careers, per the editors. Colleges that engage middle and high school students to guide them toward nursing careers should make a point to include male faculty as role models. They should also offer loan forgiveness and scholarship opportunities specifically for male applicants.
The editors noted that “men aren’t immune to the broader forces driving the nursing shortage.”
“Yet, a renewed focus on recruiting men can only help,” they wrote.