The Journey of Men in Nursing: A Critical Ethnography


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Patient health outcomes are linked to the quality of nursing care, which in turn is linked to adequacy of nurse staffing. Changing population and nurse demographics are anticipated to exacerbate the current nursing shortage. Men are underrepresented in nursing, and enhanced recruitment of men has been identified as a possible solution to the shortage. Research has suggested that men face gender-specific challenges in nursing and other gender-atypical occupations, which may influence the low recruitment and high turnover of male nurses. The study employed critical ethnography, as described by Thomas (1993), to explore and describe how others perceive men in nursing and how gender may influence men when choosing their career paths. For this study, nine male nurses who practiced at the bedside were interviewed. Data were obtained using a bio-demographic questionnaire, semi-structured interviews, and participant observation. Data were analyzed using a modified version of Carspecken’s (1996) six-step coding method. Measures to ensure study rigor and trustworthiness included credibility, fittingness, and auditability (Beck, 1993; Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Findings revealed that men in nursing experience gender-specific challenges during three timeframes: choosing to become a nurse, becoming a nurse, and being a nurse. During the first timeframe, choosing to become a nurse, the men decided whether nursing was a fitting profession for them. Three factors positively affected men’s decisions to become nurses: a) exposures to nurses, especially males; b) understanding the benefits of a career in nursing; and c) support from family and friends. Social influences, such as stereotypes about nursing and men in nursing, negatively impacted men’s decisions to become a nurse. During the second timeframe, becoming a nurse, the participants’ primary focus was to survive the often rigorous nursing program. Participants experienced both supportive and stereotypic responses to their career choice, and they began to learn ways in which to process stereotypic responses. Although the men continued to experience gender-specific challenges during the third timeframe, being a nurse, they felt confident and comfortable with themselves as men and as nurses. Study findings have implications for the recruitment and retention of men in nursing, nursing practice, nursing education, and theory development.



Men in Nursing, Male Nurses, Male, Men, Nurse, Recruitment, Retention, Gender, Gender Role, Challenge, Strain, Conflict, Ethnography, Critical Ethnography, Marginalization, Assimilation, Enculturation, Fit, Fittingness, Socialization, Underrepresentation, Minority, Minorities, Stereotype, Stereotypes, Adaptation, History, Masculine, Feminine, Conflict, Role, Culture, Participation, History, School, Practice: Career