Male Nurse Discrimination: The Slippery Fight against Preconceived Notions

male nurse smiling with crossed arms

Male Nurse Discrimination: The Slippery Fight against Preconceived Notions

Although nursing began as a male occupation, nursing now carries the stereotype of being work for women. Due to this perception, nurses who are men face sex discrimination. Employment discrimination comes in many forms, but for male nurses the most common remains sex discrimination. Most of the time, this gender discrimination is subtle, but sometimes it keeps men from advancing in their nursing career.

Gender stereotypes impact employment discrimination in the nursing profession. Patients expect nurses to be patient, caring, and gentle. But men are usually stereotyped as decisive, harsh, and strict whereas women are viewed as nurturing and sweet. These stereotypes remain strong, anchoring gender discrimination against nurses.

Experiencing any type of employment discrimination based on gender is against the law. Therefore, reach out to an employment lawyer at Kraemer, Manes & Associates to discover possible legal options.

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Why Are There So Few Men In Nursing?

Men choose to enter the nursing profession for many of the same reasons that women do, specifically the desire to help people return to full health. However, only 1 out of every 10 nurses is male. In contradiction to that number, 3 out of 4 supervisors are men. According to Minority Nurse Magazine, only 5.8% of the United States nursing population are men.

But the numbers aren’t the only factor that influence the reality of few men in nursing. The media almost always terms nurses who are men as male nurses while women are called nurses. In 2005, the American Assembly for Men in Nursing with several nursing groups and Bernard Hodes Group conducted a survey about the scarcity of men in nursing. Just under 500 nurses who are men responded. When asked what deterred men from entering the nursing profession, the men cited the negative stereotypes (73%), the perception of nursing as a women-dominated profession (50%), and the lack of male mentors (42%). And yet, over 80% still encouraged male friends to become nurses because of job security and stability. Moreover, eighty percent of men said they would choose nursing again if they had to. (Kouta and Kaite, “Gender Discrimination and Nursing: A Literature Review,” Journal of Professional Nursing)

The numbers are clear. Men are far outnumbered within the nursing profession. And often times, the majority takes advantage of the minority. In the event of any type of sex discrimination, a lawyer can fight for the employee rights provided by the government for every employee.

What Does Male Nurse Sex Discrimination Look Like?

Recognizing discrimination within the nursing profession requires a sensitivity to the culture of the hospital, healthcare center, or academic institution. Some types of actions and comments are obviously discrimination; however, other situations aren’t so clear. A questionable situation is when a patient requests a nurse based on gender. Since healthcare providers value the patient’s comfort, this is considered acceptable. And yet, it begs the question of whether or not patients should be permitted to request a nurse based on gender.

In some academic settings, gender discrimination begins in the classroom where men are not permitted to train in gynecology or obstetrics. This gender bias creates a split in the learning experiences offered to men and women. Men are often not allowed to provide postpartum care either. To care for the human population, nurses of every sex need equal training.

“Thanks, Doc!”

Male nurses routinely are called “doctor” throughout their career. Once corrected, the patients sometimes go further and ask when the man will become a doctor. Although not out rightly wrong, this reveals a certain gender stereotype in play.

“May I have a female nurse, please?”

Hospitals preserve the patient’s right to the healthcare that they want. However, male nurses share being stereotyped because they are male. Patients assume that a male nurse must be gay or unable to care gently for a healing individual. And while the hospital protects the right of the patient to request a nurse by gender and male nurses express no offense, this accepted medical practice definitely has the appearance of gender discrimination.

Minority Surgeon Discrimination: When Patients Refuse Your Care

What Does Discrimination Look Like For A Male Nurse?

The below represent common examples of situations that might lead to a case of discrimination for a male nurse who works in the medical industry. Of course, every situation is different, and depending on the factors of a particular circumstance, a lawyer may or may not be able to seek legal solutions for gender discrimination. Use the below examples to evaluate workplace incidents that might be harassment or discrimination.

The Overbearing Preceptor

Alex chose nursing because he likes caring for people. At his first job, his preceptor informed him that he belonged in the operating room because “this floor isn’t really for men as the patient[s] need a woman’s touch.” The preceptor followed Alex around and made it her job to notice every misstep and report it. She rechecked his work constantly and accused him of making up numbers to do less work. Eventually, Alex transferred to another position, and the discrimination stopped. However, if Alex had stayed with that job and the harassment intensified, he may have had a hostile environment case.

Male Model Nurse

Simon takes good care of himself, and he extends that same personal care to how he works with patients. The women notice, his looks, that is. A few coworkers have been over-the-top in their sexual advances despite his professionalism. One nurse in particular keeps making inappropriate comments to him. He’s asked her to stop, but she claims it’s what he’s always wanted. This sexual harassment could be grounds for a lawsuit, especially if the hospital does nothing to resolve the problem.

Off-limits Obstetrics

Richard has always dreamed of helping mothers bring newborns into the world. Although he’s almost 6 foot tall with broad shoulders, Richard is gentle and skilled in nursing. When he was continually refused the opportunity to participate in patient care in Obstetrics and realized it was due to his gender and size, he didn’t know what to do. No one would advocate for him. After all, healthcare supports the patient’s right to manage their own health by asking for a man or woman. But this would also hurt his career in Obstetrics. Unfortunately, this might not make a case unless other points of discrimination can be spotted.

In any of the above situations, a lawyer recognizes what type of discrimination is occurring and what legal solutions are available.

Handling Male Nurse Discrimination on a Day-to-Day Basis

Sex discrimination is against the law. However, nurses who are male deal with this type of discrimination on a daily basis. And for the most part, it’s an accepted part of the healthcare industry. Regardless of the general acceptance, gender discrimination is illegal within the workplace.

1. How to handle a patient who discriminates against a male nurse

First and foremost, a nurse should respond with professionalism. Situation to situation, different responses will be appropriate, whether pointing out that men used to dominate the nursing profession until recent days or citing the stable job with good pay. Of course, a nurse could always suggest that the patient put on a pair of clogs and follow the nurse for twelve hours.

2. Recognize discrimination and embrace diversity

Since women have dominated nursing for generations, men who choose the profession face stereotypes and negative and positive discrimination (male nurses receive jobs faster). Nurses need to work together to help all men and women to be educated equally, receiving the right knowledge to perform the job well.

3. Challenge discrimination in the workplace

When employment discrimination due to gender or race becomes a reoccurring problem, men need to report the problem to the nurse manager. From there, human resources should be the next stop. If none of these options will deal with the ongoing problem, a nurse should hire an attorney.


If you are a male nurse and have experienced gender discrimination of any type, contact a discrimination attorney now to hear your legal options.

Chat with a discrimination attorney: (412) 626-5626 or