Senior housing providers already are feeling a serious labor crunch, with some predicting a full-blown staffing crisis on the way. Recruiting more male nurses and caregivers could be one part of solving the health care worker shortage, but people of both genders—and even some health care professionals—are uncomfortable with men filling these traditionally feminine roles, according to a report from the New York Times.
Though many American men are finding themselves unemployed, particularly those that worked in manufacturing, they consider in-demand jobs in health care to require practical and emotional skills that should be performed by women. They view working as a nurse to be a demeaning position for men, and some of their wives, friends and even women in the health care industry agree.
“Marriages have more problems when the man is unemployed than the woman,” Ofer Sharon, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst told the New York Times. “What does it mean for a man to take a low-paying job that’s typically associated with women? What kind of price will they pay with their friends, their lives, their wives, compared to unemployment?”
Additionally, men in health care can face opposition from female coworkers. Jason Mott, an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, said that some of his male students were teased by female classmates, and as a result, emphasized their participation in athletics in an attempt to express their manhood.
In many ways, nursing should fit the mold of “male-appropriate” work; it pays well and requires a defined skill set. Yet, only 10% of nurses are men and this may have to do with the emotional skills associated with the profession. Patients and their families often feel more comfortable knowing that nurses are women, who they believe will be more caring and will present less of a risk of abuse or sexual predation.
Some groups are working to shift these perceptions and see more men move into the health care field. Brent MacWilliams, president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) and associate professor of nursing at UW-Oshkosh, says that the hope is to attract more millennials to the field because they may be less encumbered with ideas of masculinity in the workplace. Though AAMN’s goal of 20% male nurses by 2020 is unlikely to be achieved, MacWilliams has seen a rise in the number of men applying to nursing schools.
Written by Elizabeth Jakaitis