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A Survival Guide for Male Nurses. Really.

By Alexandra Wilson Pecci  
   July 09, 2013

For example, the book's lead author, Christopher Lance Coleman, PhD, MS, MPH, FAAN, wrote about how disappointed his father was in his choice to become a nurse.

"My family perceived nursing as a woman's profession," he wrote. "My parents worried that a man choosing nursing would face obstacles such as stigma, limited opportunities, and low pay… the word 'bedpan' kept creeping into conversations."

Just think about what that implies: That changing bedpans—i.e., real, hands-on, down-and-dirty caregiving—is a woman's domain. Such prejudices and stereotypes are not only potentially harmful to male nurses, but to female nurses and to the nursing profession. The belief that men are too masculine for nursing implies that nursing itself is weak.

The book also made me more aware of the gendered language that so often accompanies nursing. Coleman writes that in textbooks, classrooms, and conferences "she" is always the pronoun of choice when describing nurses.

I'm guilty of this, too, something that a reader of this column recently pointed out to me in an email. She wrote to complain about the headline and gendered language in the article, "When Mean Girls Wear Scrubs."

"A full 20% of my nursing staff is male," wrote Lynne Beattie, RN, MSN, Interim Manager Telemetry at Seton Medical Center in Daly City, California. "As sensitive as I was to being left out of the usual "he" and "him" communication in the late 70's, I'm equally sensitive today to articles [and] discussions that imply all nurses are female."

Alexandra Wilson Pecci is an editor for HealthLeaders.

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