Overcoming Gender Roles: The History Of Men In Nursing

Since its beginnings, the general view of the nursing profession has been that it consists mainly of women. Even though men in nursing cultures and programs have been both historically and modernally present, it is still often difficult for the general public to accept or acknowledge their presence. Today, of the two million registered nurses in America, 108,000 of them are male and that number is slowly increasing.

The lack of acknowledgment for male nurses is partly the result of gender roles and stereotypes. Gender roles are a set of social norms which are considered to be socially allowed and culturally acceptable for men and women. The physical and biological differences in the genders have led to significant classifications and expectations of the two. Traditionally, men and boys are expected to wear blue and play sports while women and girls wear pink and take ballet.

Often, male nurses are assumed and portrayed to be effeminate homosexuals. This is partly due to the modern world\’s misconception that nursing is \”women\’s work\”. Many theorists postulate that young boys and girls learn their sex\’s appropriate and expected behaviors from the adult members of society and relatives around them.

Starting as early as three hundred B. C., the members of the nursing community were predominantly men. They were the primary caregivers during the time of great plagues in Europe and risked their lives caring for the victims located near contagious diseases. Later, in the Middle Ages, both the Alexian and Benedictine nursing orders were founded by male caregivers.

Religious lays, knights, and other groups dominated by men continued to provide care for the citizens of Europe towards the end of the Middle Ages. Saint Camillus de Lellis and Saint John of God were two male nurses who were later canonized as saints. In fact, the first ambulance service and the red cross symbol were invented by Saint Camillus.

Historically, nurses and other medics were needed quickly and on the spot in the midst of wars and battles and since women weren\’t present, it was the soldiers themselves who had to drop everything and tend to their injured comrades. In 1783, a slave from New Orleans named James Derham spent a number of years working as a nurse in order to earn his eventual freedom. Later on in his career, Mr. Derham also went on to become the first African-American doctor in the United States. A few years later during the Civil War the famous poet, Walt Whitman, volunteered as a nurse in Washington DC.

Up until the beginning of the nineteen hundreds, male nursing schools and programs were fairly common in the western world. During that time more than half of the country\’s nurses were men. However, by the year 1930 almost all of the men in this particular profession had left nursing behind in favor of more lucrative positions.

The early eighties and nineties were witness to a country wide shortage of skilled nurses as well as a significant rise in their salaries which attracted many men back to the career.

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Category: Career
Keywords: Medical, Jobs, health, Career, Nursing, Human Resources, hospitals, doctors, insurance, health care

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