The Life of a Male Nurse

Life as a Nurse – the Male Perspective

by……Nurse Together.Com

I had never considered dying until I became a nurse. I had no idea what to expect when I signed up to start my nurse training. However, talking to people who were dying taught me a huge amount, as did some of the stereotypes that went with being a man working as a nurse.

Being a “Male Nurse”

It has never ceased to fascinate me that of all people from all professions, nursing appears to be the only one where people feel the need to point out what sex you are if you are a man. When I told people I was a nurse many people used to say to me, “Oh, you’re a male nurse!”

If you were addressing a teacher, solicitor, mechanic or secretary, for example, would you say, “Oh, you’re a male or female solicitor?” Most people would not. Yet, for some reason, being a male within the nursing profession often prompts people to clarify that you are, in fact, still a man!

From Hospital to Hollywood

I once ended up in the audience of “Family Feud,” which I happened to find myself at during a trip to LA several years ago. When I volunteered for the interval game where the audience got involved, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

Our ever-smiling hosts lined up five of us and told us that we would be playing pass the pizza. If you happened to be holding the pizza base — which was passed amongst us — when the music stopped, you had a bucket of pizza toppings poured over your head.

“What do you do for a living?” I was asked. I told our smiling presenter that I was a nurse.

“Oh, you’re a male nurse!” was our host’s reply. At this point I put my hand down my trousers as if to check and answered, “Yes, I still am.”

It Can Sometimes End Up in a Mess

Although this gained me a few laughs from the crowd and fellow contestants, it also ensured that I was the first person holding the pizza base when the music stopped. I was subsequently covered with “the works.”

Throughout my nursing career, which spanned 13 years and 3 continents, I found being male was an advantage. Yes, it did mean I was generally the first to be called if lifting needed to be done or potential trouble was starting; but it taught me to be very good in explaining things simply and negotiating with people, who were sometimes psychotic.

Other Advantages to Being a Nurse and a Man

The most obvious thing became very apparent, very quickly, is the large ratio of women to men in the profession. When I trained there were 100 people in our set, 20 of which were men, eight of who were gay.

This meant, in practical terms, that I received a lot of female attention in the nurses’ home. For someone who was very shy and didn’t previously have much luck with ladies, this was a very liberating experience that did wonders for my self-confidence.

As a man and a nurse it is part of the package to have your sexuality questioned regularly. This will either make you or break you as a character and set you up well in life. It teaches core skills like empathy, diplomacy and discernment, whilst ensuring that you will gain a range of life experiences that will set you up well for the rest of your life.


Be the Nurse You Want as a Patient

Be the Nurse you want as a patient. (by AllNurses.Com)
If you have had the misfortune of being a patient in the hospital, what stands out about your experience? No matter the specific reason for your admission, I’m sure it was an experience you would rather not have had. What was it that made your experience a good one…….or a not so good one?? Was it the care you received……… or the care you did not receive??

Nurses do not have the ability to change your reason for being in the hospital, but they do have the capacity to make your hospital experience a more pleasant one. I am not talking about customer care, so to speak. I am talking about nursing………including the little things. What might seem little to us may mean the world to the patient. Think about lying in bed in pain….not being able to get out of bed by yourself….dependent upon strangers for even the small things… a drink of cold water……assistance to the bathroom……kind words of explanation regarding tests and procedures……common courtesies. Nurses can change patient experiences — making difficult things less difficult, being present when there are painful and uncomfortable situations, being there to help navigate through the confusing medical world.

We all know all the administrative tasks vying for our time as nurses, with technical and managerial aspects of care sometimes taking priority over delivery of care. We also know that increased patient loads decreases the amount of time we can spend with each patient. Sometimes we get so caught up in all the “things” we have to do that we forget what one of our main jobs is… compassionately and empathetically care for the patient. But the patient is more than a name, a room number, a diagnosis….. The patient is a real person with feelings, concerns, and needs. We only get to see them while they are hurting. But we must remember, that this patient has a life outside of the hospital……or at least they did before they got to the hospital. For all we know, this may be their last stop before they die. Ours may be the last face that they see……our words the last that they hear.

If you were the patient in room 37-H who had just been told that they only had a few weeks to live, how would you feel? What would you want from your nurse? How could she/he help ease the blow you had just been dealt? It is true she/he cannot change your diagnosis…..cannot take away the disease that is slowly taking your life. But she can help to ease some of your physical and mental discomforts…….by just being there……for you and you family. Being there to listen and answer questions. Being there to see if you would like for her/him to call your pastor or the hospital chaplain. Being there to hold your hand when others have gone home for the night.

Sometimes we forget that bedside nursing involves being at the bedside for more than procedures, medications, assessments. Yes, all of these things are definitely important to the care of our patient. But we must also remember that it is at the bedside where we can let the true compassion of our profession shine through some of the darkest hours that our patients and their families face. Remember………one day we will all experience those dark hours. Maybe it will only be a few days before the sun shines again for us and we are discharged home. Or maybe it will be for the final time that we will see the light shine on this side of death. When our time comes, let’s hope that we are lucky enough to get the type of nurse we were to our patients.

As we go through each day, let us try to imagine what we would think if we were in the patient’s place. Let us be the nurse that we would want as a patient.


Ask a Nurse


Student nurses and new nurses – are you interested in learning how to expand your network, prep for interviews or gain valuable experience in nursing? Or maybe you want to know what to expect during your first year as a nurse. We are inviting student nurses and nurses with less than five years of nursing experience to share your fundamental questions with us on the Nursing Notes by Johnson & Johnson Facebook Page and on Twitter @JNJNursingNotes. Each month, we will pick a few questions to highlight in this section with responses provided by seasoned nurses!

Q. What was your biggest challenge starting out as a nurse?

A. It’s certainly tough when nurses come out of school. My biggest challenge was deciding which specialty to work in. I always thought I’d stick with neonatal intensive care, but I ended up in adult oncology.

I had studied in several different areas with many professors and mentors, and all of these factors played into my thinking that I wanted to stick with neonatal intensive care. It wasn’t until I got into the real world with real work experience that I realized I wasn’t sure. Figuring out my path from one specialty to the other was a challenge – it’s important to stay patient throughout the process.

-Lynn Erdman, RN, MN, OCNS, FAAN, Vice President of Community Health for Susan G. Komen for the Cure in Charlotte, N.C. Erdman has been a nurse for more than 25 years.

Q. What advice would you give to new nurses to help them avoid burnout?

A. Stay positive. Don’t let other people talk you out of what you love. Possibly switch specialties, but don’t become a job-hopper. And never stop learning – learn something new every day.

I also strongly encourage nursing students to get involved, and find something to do to help the community.

-Cheryl Schmidt, Ph.D., RN, CNE, ANEF, FAAN, Associate Professor at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences College of Nursing in Little Rock, Ark., and Subject Matter Expert for Nursing Education for the Red Cross. Schmidt has been working for the Red Cross since 1974.

Q. What do you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out in your career?

A. As a new nurse, I was always trying to get everything done before I left for the day without realizing that some things could be passed on to another nurse on the next shift. It’s important not to stress yourself out over tasks that another nurse is perfectly capable of handling. You need to know when it’s okay to stop, relax and go home for the day. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, it’s okay to ask for help or to delegate things to your colleagues.

-Jennifer Flynn, RN, BSN, CPHON at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Aurora, Colo. Flynn has been a nurse since 2005.Image