While the number of men in nursing has increased in recent years, Case Western Reserve University’s Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing has seen a huge jump in men enrolling in its master entry-nursing program this year.
Roughly one-third of the entering Master of Nursing class—11 of the 30 students—is male.
Traditionally, the share of men in nursing has hovered around 9 to 10 percent, with an interest in pursuing the higher-paying positions such as nurse anesthetist and flight nurse positions, said Mary E. Kerr, dean of the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing at Case Western Reserve.
But 30 percent?
“Unprecedented,” said Kerr, the May L. Wykle Professor at the nursing school. “Eleven of 30 is unbelievable. This is great.”
Nathan Babb, a first-year Master of Nursing student, said he expected maybe five men in his class.
While the number of male nurses has more than tripled since the 1970s, all but about 330,000 of the 3.5 million nurses employed in 2011 were female, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Meanwhile, the American Association of Colleges of Nursing reports 11 percent of students graduating from baccalaureate programs in 2010-11 were men, while men make up just 7 percent of registered nurses.
The Master of Nursing program is designed for students with non-nursing undergraduate degrees who aim to pursue a career in nursing.
Deborah Lindell, who directs the program and was surprised to see so many men enrolled, said that Job demands and security are part of it.
“But what they tell us in the interviews tends to be that they wanted a career in health care, looked at the options, and chose nursing due to opportunities to interact closely with patients, have multiple career directions, shorter time period than medicine to reach positions with more autonomy, such as nurse practitioner.
She partly attributed the increase to a new marketing strategy that focused on students with an interest in the sciences. The strategy, however, didn’t target a particular gender, she said, and was even launched late in the recruiting season.
Though nursing had significant male representation until the 1800s because of the association between nursing and the military, the number of men in the profession declined in the 1900s with the emergence of modern nursing and legal barriers that prevented them from entering the field. However, the number of males in nursing has been growing since the 1970s.
Grover Shelton, of Rockford, Ill., who earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from Butler University in 2007, said he enrolled based on a referral from the director of a wound clinic in Indianapolis who was familiar with the nursing school’s reputation.
“I believe nursing is more aligned with my personal beliefs of what patient care is ,” Shelton said. “Due to some early childhood health scares, I have never wanted to do anything else in life but directly influence the health and well being of suffering individuals.”
Some students in the MN program are making a career change from their undergraduate degree. The program allows them to become an RN and, eventually, a nurse practitioner, Lindell said.
For example, Jonathan Heilman, of Newton, Mass., who earned a fine arts degree from the New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts in 2011, enrolled in the program to pursue a different career.
Long fascinated by child and adolescent mental health, he switched his career goals after volunteering at the NYU Child Student Center. The experience led him to work with mental health patients at the St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Boston.
There, he was able to watch as doctors, nurses, social workers and others interacted with patients. He was especially struck with how involved the nurses were in hands-on patient care.
“It was the nurse in the thick of it all,” he said, “by the patient’s side from admission to discharge.”