In the Spring 2002 issue of Minority Nurse, our cover story on strategies for recruiting men into nursing examined, among other things, some of the stereotypes, prejudices and outright discrimination that continue to be significant challenges for men who choose to pursue this traditionally female career. Male nurses interviewed in the article related personal examples of bias they had encountered, from guidance counselors asking “can’t you afford medical school?” to nursing professors beginning their lectures with “good morning, ladies.”
In response, we received an email from a reader named Steven Ellison. “I was quite happy to see the men in nursing story,” he writes. “I was particularly pleased that it highlighted several male faculty members, whom I consider key to attracting more men into nursing.
“What I was not happy with was the treatment of gay male nurses. There were two references to them in the article, both negative. One was the reference to [Michael Desjardins, RN, 2001-02 president of the National Student Nurses’ Association] being told by friends to wear his wedding ring at work so people wouldn’t think he was gay. The other was [the statement by another male nurse that ‘if you were a man going into nursing, the stereotypes were either that you weren’t smart enough to get into med school or you were gay’].
“Both comments were perfectly ‘normal,’ but still lacking in sensitivity,” Ellison believes. “If men want to advance in nursing, the last thing they should be doing is differentiating among themselves. There have been many fine gay male nurses who have gone before us and we should be proud of them.”