Is It Time for Gender Diversity in Nursing?

April 1, 2021
April 1, 2021

This blog post excerpts an article in the Spring 2015 issue of HealthStream's PX Advisor, our quarterly magazine designed to bring you thought leadership and best practices for improving the patient experience.   

A potential nursing shortage may be looming on the horizon. The expected shortage has been temporarily subdued by the recent economic downturn wherein many nurses re-entered the nursing workforce to make ends meet. However, with an improving economy and thousands of baby boomers expected to retire in the coming years, we could be facing a nursing shortage in the United States. Add to this the expectancy of more insured patients due to the Affordable Care Act, and things look even more challenging. This is not just a national problem, however. There is international concern of an impending nursing shortage, as well. 

One of the issues (as it relates to a potential nursing shortage) is that nursing is, for the most part, a single gender profession. Many have called for an increase in diversity in the nursing field and to recruit from previously untapped populations. Interestingly, women have made inroads into formerly male-dominated professions. Yet, the ability of men moving into the nursing field has lagged significantly behind. 

Current Status of Men in Nursing 

In 1970, only 2.7% of registered nurses were men. By 2011, that number had only increased to 9.6%. In the same year, it is also interesting to note that 16.8% of nurses were non-Caucasian. One article has reported that we are further behind in gender diversity in nursing than in racial and ethnic diversification.  

Despite this gender gap in nursing, men tend to make more money than women. Men out-earned women as nurses in 2011—$60,700 to $51,100. This gender pay gap, however, is smaller in nursing than in other professions. Men are also more likely than women to enter leadership roles and specialized fields, such as nurse anesthetist, where salaries are much higher and pay approximately $160,000/year. 

As might be expected, the percentage of men enrolled in nursing programs is also small, but it is growing. Correspondingly, the percentage of registered nurses who are men is also increasing in a slow, but steady, rate. 

This article includes: 

  • Men and Women Entering Nursing School Differ Demographically
  • Common Differences and Challenges of Men Enrolled in Nursing Programs
  • Why Are Men Hesitant to Enter the Field of Nursing?
  • What Can be Done to Increase the Number of Men in Nursing and Nursing Education?