When young boys are asked what they want to be when they grow up, they’re supposed to answer "doctor," not "nurse," because nursing is for women–at least that’s how the stereotype goes.
But national ad campaigns are trying to eliminate that stereotype by asking men "Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse?" The ads depict a variety of men ? some in nurse scrubs, some in sports uniforms or business suits–and provide a brief description of a hobby each man enjoys.
"I love [these ads]," said Christopher Blackwell, an assistant professor for UCF’s College of Nursing. "When we get positive ads and positive characters on shows like ‘Nurse Jackie’ and ‘House,’ they break some of the stereotypes down," said Blackwell.
A study conducted by the Bernard Hodes Group in 2004 found the most common misperceptions about male nurses are that they are homosexual, that nursing is viewed as a more feminine profession, and that men aren’t seen as caring enough to be nurses.
"When you look at stereotypes, you have two different kinds: public and professional," Blackwell said. "Because nurses work together, they know the gay stereotype isn’t true."
However, Blackwell said that some female nurses may feel that men should be better at the technical side of nursing and that men can be seen as "muscle" for the female nurses who can’t lift patients.
According to the Hodes study, 50 percent of the male nurses polled said they have encountered these kinds of stereotypes in the workplace, and 56 percent of the men polled said they encountered stereotypes in school.
Are the men in UCF’s nursing school facing these stereotypes?
"I don’t really know how much of a presence stereotypes have concerning male nurses anymore," said Joe Eichorn, a nursing major in the accelerated nursing program. "We have fun in class joking with each other about them. Other than that, it has never really come up."
Dominic Pham, who is also in the accelerated nursing program, says that the stereotyping he has faced has mostly concerned his Asian descent. "I’ve never really minded the stereotyping I’ve faced since none were ever truly malicious in my eyes," said Pham.
Stacey Grant, a first-year nursing student, says she used to believe some of the stereotypes herself. "I must admit, when I first entered the program, I did have a few stereotypes about male nurses stuck in my head. Some people may still think that ‘murses’ [male nurses] must be feminine or pre-med drop outs," Grant said.
"However, all of the guys I know in the nursing program are the ‘typical’ college student just trying to get an education," Grant said. "If anything, they get more attention than all of the girls."
Although there are many males who have not encountered stereotyping, the Hodes study cites stereotypes as a factor in the low number of males who have entered the nursing profession.
Of the 2 million registered nurses in the U.S., only about 5 percent of them are male. At UCF, about 2,250 students are nursing majors, but only 246 of them are male.
According to Blackwell, this is why using ads to recruit men into the profession is crucial.
"I think it’s important [to advertise to men]. Having a strong male presence [in health care] is important," Blackwell said.
Pham also thinks this type of advertising is a positive step.
"I think there are very few situations where publicity is bad," Pham said. "Like other advertisements, even if it is annoying or controversial, attention is brought to it, which may trigger inspiration in those that have never considered [male nursing]."
However, many of the men polled in the Hodes study did not view the ads as positive.
"Many commented that in pushing the macho image, the ads were underscoring the stereotype that men in nursing are overwhelmingly gay or that nursing is not a masculine career choice," the study reports.
Masculine career choice or not, Blackwell said that if you work in a good team environment, the stereotypes won’t matter.
"We did not care if you were male, female, white, black or Puerto Rican," Blackwell said. "What we cared about was that you were a good, productive member of the team."