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Popular Culture a Barrier to Male Nurse Recruitment and Nurse Retention

Written by LeAnn Thieman, CSP, October 15th, 2013

Fictional male nurses on television are sidelined in supporting roles, the butt of jokes and cast as minorities, all of which makes it harder in reality for male nurse recruitment and nurse retention, according to a new study.

“Students report that popular TV shows can help them choose a career, or that TV perpetuates negative stereotypes about nursing that they then have to address in practice,” said Dr. Roslyn Weaver, an adjunct fellow at the University of Western Sydney School of Nursing and Midwifery, who led the research. “So when men in nursing are almost invisible in popular culture or are stereotyped as incompetent or somehow ‘unmasculine’, then men who choose to enter nursing can find it difficult to combat this. Perhaps reflecting this, there are often higher attrition rates for male students than female students in nursing.”

Men account for roughly 9% of nurses in the USA, according to the census bureau.

With a growing number of men entering the profession, it’s important to examine how male nurses are portrayed in popular culture. Common stereotypes include the nurse who is mistaken for a doctor and the gay or emasculated male nurse. Male nurses and midwives in the shows tend to suffer condescension from their colleagues and patients and are the object of comedy.

Being in the minority may put male nurses at a disadvantage, Weaver said. “This not only means men might be stereotyped but they can also be excluded from particular clinical specialties, face difficulties dealing with older female patients and be expected to do more ‘masculine’ work such as heavier manual work.”

Improving male nurse recruitment efforts could help, and fewer negative stereotypes in television programs might make a difference, the researchers say.

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