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Male Affirmative-Action Would Help the Nursing Shortage

September 18, 2002
Related Topics: Diversity, Featured Article

To be effective as a health-care professional, you must become a mirror imageof the population.

 The population of those who need nursing care is not made up of 84 percentwhite women. The nursing profession, however, is made up of 84 percent whitewomen.

Only 10 percent of the registered nurses in the United States are from racialor ethnic minorities, even though these individuals make up 28 percent of thenation’s population.

Furthermore, only 5.9 percent of nurses are men. Imagine the outcry ifphysicians, dentists, or clinical psychologists had only a 5.9 percent femaleconstituency.

Nursing, like all the other so-called “women’s professions” and workgroups, has been completely exempt from complying with affirmative-actionlegislation. Neither of the two major political parties has forced women to bedemocratic and to abide by federal legislation. The standard excuse is that itis too difficult to force women to be democratic, while it is comparatively easyto force men to abide by law and democratic principles.

The well-publicized nurse shortage is one of the outcomes.

In a study done at the University of Pennsylvania in the early 1960s, thedata showed that 97 percent of men in the profession worked full-time from thetime they graduated until retirement. Only 23 percent of women did likewise.

About 20 years later, a multidisciplinary research team from the Universityof Illinois replicated the study. The team found that 32 percent of women nursesworked full-time, as compared to 97 percent of men. The only exception was thatsome male nurses with associate degrees who aspired to a baccalaureate educationsometimes worked part-time during this period.

This data leads to the easy conclusion that if only one-third of nurses weremen, the nurse shortage would not exist. It would be even truer if 45 percent ofthe profession were males of all races.

What many nurses do not know is that Hippocrates, who was considered thegreatest scholar of his time, started education for both nurses and physiciansaround 400 B.C. Back then, all the nurses were men, because women were noteducated.

This gender-related double standard lasted for many generations, until theindustrial revolution opened up many other fields for men. Florence Nightingalearrived on the scene at about the same time. She wanted to be a scientist, not anurse. However, despite her wealth, she could not gain admittance to auniversity because she was a woman.

Nightingale expressed some of her anger toward men by limiting their role innursing while she was head of nursing at the St. Thomas Hospital in London inthe 19th century. More recently, the St. Thomas Hospital faculty had to workintensively for a number of years before they were able to recruit their firstmale student, in the early 1980s. Nightingale’s concept was so firmly embeddedin the hospital’s public image that prospective male students applied to otherschools.

Whenever the nursing profession decides to be democratic--as women insistthat historically male-dominated professions be--and admits men and women of allraces in proportion to the total population, the shortage will evaporate.

Workforce Online, September 2002 -- Register Now!

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