The nursing profession is still primarily female-oriented, but the proportion of male nurses is growing. The continuing strong demand for nurses means the healthcare industry has more room for newcomers to the profession. Male nurses can benefit from the robust nursing market, and men pursuing nursing education such as a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) are part of the solution to nursing shortages. As stereotypes change, more men are being welcomed into 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. Many societies believed these healers should be male. Women often 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-nineteenth century, men began playing a smaller role. Nursing became one of the few professions available to women in Western society. At that time, nursing had less respect and was seen as a low-prestige career more suitable 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 on the basis of sex in public educational programs, men gradually became a bigger part of the nursing profession. Men represented just 2.7 percent of nurses in 1980 and now represent almost 10 percent, according to Minority Nurse and Medscape. 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. Many students, including many men, 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. Men can help by filling the void created by these retirements.

For nursing jobs where physical strength is helpful, men may be particularly successful at finding employment. The use of heavy equipment in orthopedics, for example, puts nurses who are particularly strong at an advantage. While men are not the only well-qualified candidates for these positions, there may be more demand for physical strength and for nurses who are interested in jobs requiring sturdy workers.

The Future of Men in Nursing

Male professionals in the field receive high salaries and find a wide range of advancement opportunities. In the future, male enrollment in nursing programs is expected to increase.

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 helped highlight men’s contributions to the field and continued to bring more male students into nursing programs. Now, nursing is an excellent field and a solid choice for many men who seek a positive, well-regarded career in healthcare.

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


Journal for Leadership and Instruction: Men in Nursing: Their Influence in a Female-Dominated Career

Medscape: Just Call Us Nurses: Men in Nursing

Nurse Uncut: Men in Nursing — A Brief History

American Assembly for Men in Nursing: Future of Nursing Message