Attracting Male Nursing Students

What can educators do to attract more men to the nursing field?

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

From Florence Nightingale onward, nursing has been a female-dominated career. But more men than ever are earning nursing degrees.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percent of male nurses has grown by 59% in the past decade. However, that still amounts to only 12% of all licensed practical nurses, registered nurses and nurse practitioners.

One of the barriers to seeking an education in nursing is the need to earn while you learn. It’s tough to hit “pause” on work to focus solely on the rigorous studying required to complete a nursing degree. Pew Research reveals that women are the primary breadwinner in only 16% of US households and men are the primary or sole breadwinner in 55% of them.

Finger Lakes Health College of Nursing and Health Sciences offers some remote prerequisite classes and evening classes which “help the person who is working full-time,” said Kathy Mills, registered nurse and dean of Finger Lakes Health College of Nursing and Health Sciences and director of Marion S. Whelan School of Practical Nursing.

Many of the resources and textbooks are also online, which can help people who are working to fit in study time when they can.

“We have agreements with several colleges like Keuka and Brockport so their coursework would correlate,” Mills said. “They both have online courses for their bachelor’s. Typically at the associate level that is where they get most of the hands-on and most of the rest is online.”

James Hill, an assistant nurse manager for ambulatory psychiatry at UR Medicine Mental Health & Wellness, believes that the field is “more welcoming of men” than it used to be and he is seeing more male students coming into clinic than he used to.

“In a traditional sense, making it more flexible for males to go back to school while working part-time or full-time, that is attractive,” Hill said.

He certainly found that true in his academic journey. The flexibility offered him by part-time classes at a community college and accelerated classes at Niagara University helped him scale back his full-time employment to part-time for only a year while earning his BSN in 2016.

“I was still able to financially contribute to the family,” he said. “The flexibility of the program made it more attractive to work while still going back to school. It would’ve been much more difficult to pursue a career change in nursing if I’d had to go back to school full-time.”

Although he found the accelerated program stressful — one of the toughest experiences of his life, in fact — it was for only a year. The program accepted the general education core from a previous bachelor’s degree and a few classes at community college fulfilled prerequisites like anatomy and biology.

Of course, women who work full-time also benefit from hybrid, weekend and online classes. However, the social stigma of quitting work to go to school is less for women than men, as women often take time away from work for family care giving duties. Traditionally, women aren’t expected to serve as the family’s main wage earner.