Thursday, September 24, 2009

Are You Man Enough to be a Nurse?

On Monday I was surfing through the channels and happened to stop on CNN. The segment was called “Are You Man Enough to be a Nurse?” On the show, they were interviewing a man, Olinger, who after losing his job as a lumber salesman, was pursuing a degree as a nurse’s assistant. Now, I know all the stereotypes of both male and female nurses (men as gay and women as ditzy), and I know that nursing in general is a job that is low on the respect scale because it is a career dominated by women. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was for CNN to pose such a blunt question that I assumed would insult many people, especially female nurses. However, my favorite question of the entire segment was “Has it been tough moving from a job in lumber sales to a nurse's assistant?” You could just tell by the way the man said it that what he meant was “How does it feel to go from a manly job to a job where you are subservient to other nurses who are most likely women?” Olinger’s response, however, was very humble. He said, “Yes, it has been. I feel that not knowing the future going into the nursing field whether it will be something I can accomplish or something I wasn't going to like at all. It was -- it was a little stressful.” It was refreshing to hear that yes, he was not completely confident that he would be a successful nurse. I thought that was a great answer. However, I definitely was not expecting what I came across next.

While trying to find a clip from the segment to show on the blog, I discovered an entire campaign centered around the question “Are You Man Enough to be a Nurse?” Apparently in an attempt to recruit more male nurses, the Oregon Center for Nursing started a campaign using the above poster.

Look familiar? It reminded me of the photo in The Male Body on page 27. Only this time, they are not doctors, but nurses and they don’t need to be in their underwear because being a male nurse is exposing enough in our society. The same serious looks are on the faces of the nurses as they are on the doctors in the ad. Obviously one must overcompensate with their masculinity when they are a male nurse. Could they look any less sensitive? Is that really the way they handle themselves as nurses? I guess smiling would be a sign of weakness. Besides that, is replacing one stereotype (male nurses are gay) with another (male nurses are the epitome of manliness) really the way to go? Furthermore, why isn’t anyone questioning why being gay is such a bad thing? Or, why is being in a profession dominated by women so demeaning? I think this poster leads to many of the same questions we’ve been asking during this class.
I am in no way saying that there shouldn’t be more male nurses. Every person deserves the right to do what they want in life and I think being a nurse is a great profession. In fact, I plan on becoming a nurse myself. However, is anyone really pushing women to be engineers? CEOs? Maybe they are and I have missed it (I certainly wasn’t aware of this poster until today), but it seems to me that men would have a much easier time becoming a nurse than a woman becoming an engineer. Even if they endure some ridicule and some may question their masculinity, there are many people, such as those on CNN, who are more than willing to dish out the praise for those who are “man” enough to go into a female dominated profession. Besides, I am pretty sure that ridicule does not follow them into their profession as a nurse in any serious way, but is more of a problem outside of the profession. I’d be interested to see the path male nurses take in their profession and if upward mobility is common with men in this profession. My guess would be yes. I mean, even in the CNN segment they were already asking Olinger what opportunity he has for growth in nursing.

In a way, I anger myself because I feel the same way. I do not want to be the stereotypical female nurse who couldn’t become a doctor. I have confidence that if I put my mind to it, I could be a doctor, but I choose not to be. I want to focus my time on people and I believe nursing offers that. I do plan on obtaining my master’s degree right after I obtain my BSN to become a Nurse Midwife. I know part of the reason I want to do this is because of the stereotype and also because I want my own autonomy as a nurse and a higher degree will afford me that. This is definitely a source of contention for me.

Apparently UCF passes out similary posters and I am going to try and get my hands on one. I read that the posters they distribute at UCF feature smiling faces, but still the same question “Are You Man Enough to be a Nurse?”

1 comment:

Steve Foerster said...

Yes, there are initiatives encouraging women to go into engineering, physical sciences, and math. And as for the corporate world, the same is true encouraging women not to let a "glass ceiling" stop them from going after the corner office.