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Number of men in nursing sees big increase with growing demand of industry

13 percent of nurses in the US are men
Posted at 11:43 AM, Mar 22, 2018

For men who are working in what's often considered a job for women, in can be both liberating and rewarding.

A predicted shortage in the nursing field has spurred more recruiting, and that recruiting includes men. Meet two who are helping re-define a profession that has been dominated by women since the 19th century

For the last 20 years, Rhett Stephens has been doing what he loves — helping people, as a nurse. But it's a career path he almost didn't take.

"I guess I never really thought about men being in nursing," Stephens said.

National Nurse's Day in the U.S. is May 6, 2018

He was working as a researcher when he decided to go back to school and become a nurse.

John Goerke thought he'd be an teacher, but made the switch to nursing halfway through college. He was drawn to the opportunity to care for people when they need it most.

Now these two men work at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center, and are a part of a growing number of men in nursing. In 1960 only 2 percent of nurses in the U.S. were men. Now it's 13 percent. 

The biggest factors? Expanding gender roles and a changing economy. Some jobs have declined because of trade and automation, while nursing is growing much faster than the average occupation.

"I work in education now," Stephens said. "So I train new nurses that come in so I see the ones that are coming through and a lot of times it's second careers."

There are some stereotypes.

"Just the lifting help in general we can help lift sometimes," Stephens said.

But male nurses are bringing balance to the profession, which they believe ultimately helps patients. "Something that I've certainly noticed is that male patients really like being cared for in certain circumstances by a male," Goerke said. "And you're able to help them and give them a level of comfort and put them at ease."

Despite the progress, there's a long way to go.

"I go to meetings now and I'm the only guy out of 25 nursing leaders which is unusual," Goerke said. "And I certainly notice it but it doesn't really phase me."

Men were a big part of the nursing field until the Civil War, when women had to step in and provide care for men who served in the military, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

The bureau says the number of men in the nursing field has tripled since the 1970s, and a count in 2011 showed more than 330,000 in the U.S. were nurses.