Male nurses are slowly becoming more commonplace, both in the workplace and in popular culture, but there are still hurdles to overcome. Ten percent of all registered nurses are male, according to a 2011 survey by the U.S. Census Bureau. While this percentage is not huge, it is triple the number of male nurses from 45 years ago.

The most common reason men choose a career in nursing is similar to why women opt to become a nurse: a desire to help people and the opportunity to grow in a career with many paths. Also cited in the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) survey were career stability and the variety of places geographically where nurses can work. Over two-fifths, (44 percent) of men enter nursing from another career, and 17 percent become a nurse following military service.

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Male nurse stereotypes

The biggest challenge to more men becoming RNs is misperceptions of male nurses, mostly caused by stereotypes in the media. One frequently mentioned character is Greg Focker (played by Ben Stiller) in the “Meet the Parents” movies, who is incessantly ridiculed by his father-in-law for his career choice. On television, there’s the affable but incompetent Morgan Tookers (played by Ike Barinholtz) on “The Mindy Project.”

A three-year study of male nurses on television found the characters were “reduced to that of a prop, minority spokesperson or source of comedy.” The study reviewed “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Hawthorne,” “Mercy,” “Nurse Jackie” and “Private Practice” between 2007 and 2010. The researchers stressed the need for more positive role models to attract more men to the nursing field. These shows propagate stereotypes and need to take another look at the profession currently.

Researchers from East Tennessee University made an interesting discovery that turns the male nurse stereotype on its head. The study found male nursing students scored higher on tests measuring masculinity than students in other college majors. The researchers concluded that more of an effort should be made to “counteract the prevailing belief that male nurses are effeminate.”

Josiah Shoon shares his thoughts on the subject.

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