Historically, the nursing workforce was primarily women, and that’s still the case. However, the proportion of men and people of other gender identities in nursing is growing. The continuing strong demand for nurses and the persistent shortage of nurses in many areas mean the healthcare industry needs more people from all backgrounds. Male nurses can benefit from the robust nursing market, and men pursuing nursing education such as an online Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) are part of the solution to nursing shortages. As stereotypes change, people of all genders fill important roles in the profession. In the future, we can expect to see more gender balance and diversity.

A History of Men in Nursing

Throughout history, men have served in patient care roles giving direct medical and nursing care to patients. Before nursing was an established profession with educational programs, governmental regulation, and professional codes of ethics, it was a role served — informally in many situations — by healers who were often male. Women served in caring roles throughout society, but many cultures believed health and healing skills were primarily masculine traits.

As Florence Nightingale advocated for women to take charge of nursing work in the mid-19th century, men began playing a smaller role. Nursing became one of the few professions available to women in Western society. At that time, nursing was seen as a more suitable career for women. Some men attended nursing school, but many programs only accepted female candidates. Many males who provided patient care were called orderlies or wardsmen rather than nurses.

Changing Opportunities for Male Nurses

As Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 made it illegal to discriminate based on sex in public educational programs, men gradually became a bigger part of the nursing profession. Consider this: According to Nurselabs, men represented less than 1% of the nursing workforce in 1930 and just 2.7% in the late 1970s. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) reports that men accounted for about 12% of nurses in 2022.

While men still make up a minority of nurses, the proportion of males in the profession grows steadily. As a bigger proportion of the nursing profession, these men now work in a variety of nursing roles and care settings.

The increased demand for nurses, solid pay, and advancement opportunities are gradually reshaping a profession that was female-dominated for a significant period of time. Students of all genders are looking for a stable career that offers opportunities for advancement. There is plenty of room for more nurses as experienced professionals retire or leave the field. Plus, an unprecedented number of nurses left the profession — or are planning to leave — due to burnout and stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. Men can help by filling the void created by ongoing nurse attrition.

The Future of Men in Nursing

Professionals in the field — including men — receive high salaries and find a wide range of advancement opportunities. In the future, male enrollment will likely increase in nursing programs like Nevada State University’s online RN to BSN.

Nursing is a profession with a long history of caring for patients. As nursing became more established, some nursing schools and employers excluded and discriminated against men. Changing attitudes about gender roles highlighted men’s contributions to the field and brought more male students into nursing programs. Now, nursing is an excellent field and a solid choice for many men — and people of any gender identity — who seek a positive, well-regarded career in healthcare.

Learn more about the Nevada State RN to BSN online program.