In a Field Historically Female-driven, Men are Making Inroads

Percentage of men in nursing grows from 9.4% to 11.2% between 2020 and 2022

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

Josh Lynch is a registered nurse on an acute care floor for Rochester Regional Health

During the pandemic, 20% of medical personnel left the healthcare industry, including nurses.

Interestingly, the number of males working in nursing has grown since then.

According to statistics published in the 2022 National Nursing Workforce Survey in the Journal of Nursing Regulation, the percent of men in nursing grew from 9.4% to 11.2% between 2020 and 2022.

One of them is Josh Lynch, registered nurse on an acute care floor for Rochester Regional Health, who graduated with a bachelor’s in nursing from Nazareth College in 2021.

Lynch had previously worked as a certified master automotive technician and operated Mer-win Automotive in Rochester. He felt drawn to nursing because of the care his twin girls received after his babies were born 15 weeks early. It was five months until both girls were at home and the neonatal intensive care unit nurses impressed Lynch deeply.

“I said to my wife one day, ‘I can go back to fixing cars; I’m really good at it but I’ll never be happy doing that again,’” he said.

The couple adjusted their working schedules and lives to accommodate Lynch going back to school.

Shifting from a male-dominated career of automotive repair to one that’s traditionally female-oriented wasn’t a huge adjustment to Lynch. But it seems to be at times to others.

“A lot of people say those are so misaligned and they’re really not,” Lynch said of his two careers. “There are so many similarities with critical thinking and diagnostics, only you’re diagnosing people not cars.”

He took the advice of his automotive mentor Chris Whiteman, who told him, “’Josh, sometimes you can’t just put your toe in to test the waters; you have to jump in,’” he said. “If you really want to make a career change, jump in. it’s going to be scary and there will be uncertainty and most of the time, it works out in the end.”

Of his nursing class, 46 started and only about six men completed the class. But hiring agents seem eager to recruit male nurses, as they’re not common candidates. Because of his automotive background, he can “repair a lot of stuff on the unit that’s broken,” he said. “You do what you’ve got to do to get through.”

Lynch has noticed that although stigmas about working as a nurse have not been major, he has noticed that many things such as scrubs and shoes are geared more toward women.

Still, it’s a small matter and he’s glad to work as a nurse.

“I’ve had so many deep life experiences,” Lynch added.

‘Not very welcomed by staff’
Greg Hoffman-Fragale, doctor of nurse practitioner and interim nursing officer at Finger Lakes Health.

A lot has changed for the better for male nurses since the start of the nursing career of Greg Hoffman-Fragale, doctor of nurse practitioner and interim nursing officer at Finger Lakes Health.

He became interested in nursing at age 18 while working at a fast-food restaurant. Hoffman-Fragale had been accepted at Julliard and was weighing whether he wanted to play clarinet professionally. A relative encouraged him to work as a nursing assistant to test the waters.

Hoffman-Fragale earned his LPN in and later RN and eventually doctor of nurse practitioner. But when he started out in 1992, “I was not very welcomed by staff,” he recalled. “Back then, there was a lot of hazing by staff. They gave us a really hard time. It was quite a challenge, but I was determined to integrate into it. Over the years, I’ve observed more and more men in nursing, especially since the mid- to late-2000s.”

He also noted that many male nurses work in areas of leadership as well.

Hoffman-Fragale worked as a nurse in New York City for a few years and noted that integrating into a healthcare organization was easier there than in Upstate.

“It’s still a female-dominated profession and there are still moments where it’s more difficult,” he said. “There’s a sense of an undertone of unacceptance in some instances.”

Fortunately, he’s had almost never had an issue with patients, except for earlier in his career when a few elderly female patients wanted a female caring for them.

‘How’s Gaylord?’
Todd Plucknette is a Rochester Regional Health nurse.

Rochester Regional Health nurse Todd Plucknette initially thought that he would work in exercise physiology and earned a degree from SUNY Brockport in 2015.

While seeing patients at the hospital, he observed what nurses do and he realized that’s what he really wanted to do. A fair amount of overlap between the education and the job skills helped smooth the transition. After taking a few prerequisite courses, he graduated in 2020 with his associate in nursing from Genesee Community College and is hoping to return to school at SUNY Brockport for his bachelor’s degree in nursing.

As for receiving flack for his career choice, Plucknette said that hasn’t happened except for a little good-natured ribbing from his buddies such as “How’s Gaylord?” referencing a male nurse character maligned in the movie “Meet the Parents” (2000).  But fortunately, a lot has changed in 24 years.

“I never get any disrespect or anything like that,” Plucknette said. “Our staff is really great, supportive and helpful. It’s a team effort to make sure the patients are well-cared for.”

He advises anyone interested in nursing to shadow a nurse on a unit or work as a tech to see what it’s all about.