By Robb Pastor, RN, MBA, FACHE, Chief Clinical Officer at Southwest Health

I’m often asked, “What’s it like to be a male nurse?” Usually, I respond with “Have you seen the movie Meet the Parents? It’s not much different.”

Like the character Greg Fokker, I’ve suffered my share of razzing from the guys I grew up with, not to mention the fathers of women I dated. Even my own family members have taunted me over the years. Fortunately, I was able to laugh off the jokes and stick with it. And the great news is that these people who once made fun of me, now have the utmost respect for what I do. I’ve also ended up with a successful, exciting, and rewarding career.

Being a nurse isn’t easy. It’s not for everyone, and it can be especially difficult for men. Men who choose to become nurses have already chosen to clear one hurdle: the gender stereotype. Did you know that only nine percent of nurses in the US are male, according to March 2015 data from The Kaiser Family Foundation? On the flip side though, reports that even in a female-dominated field, male nurses typically out-earn female nurses, which sadly is the case across almost all occupations.

The average pay for a staff nurse (male or otherwise) is between $50-70k per year. And the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that employment of registered nurses is projected to grow 16 percent from 2014 to 2024, much faster than the average for virtually every other job category. They state a number of reasons for the growth, including an increasing emphasis on preventive care; growing rates of chronic health conditions, like diabetes and obesity, and an increasing demand for healthcare services from long-living baby-boomers.

There are always going to be some professions where gender comes into play. And in nursing there are always going to be challenges for men. After all, how many women want their OB/GYN nurse to be a man? Somewhere between zero and none I’d say.

Male nurses have long been mischaracterized as somehow less masculine. A study in the American Journal of Men’s Health in November 2011 attempts to put this stereotype to bed. Good luck, with that, right? Researchers took a survey of male and female nursing students across the U.S., scoring them based on certain personality traits. The study concludes the nursing profession attracts “males who hold a high degree of masculinity.” The masculinity rating was even higher than most men in other professions.


So while I continually strive to break the traditional stereotype, there are countless hurdles to cross before it becomes a well-accepted profession for men. The best advice I can give to any young man considering a nursing career is to “JUST DO IT.” For me, it’s been a path that has led to an extremely satisfying and rewarding career. Plus, there are lots of exciting directions you can take. Truly, the opportunities are endless.

If you are interested in learning more about nursing careers please contact our Human Resources department to schedule a job shadow opportunity at 608-342-4796 or visit our careers page for current opportunities.

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