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Getting Tough About Recruiting Men into Nursing
by Pam Chwedyk Minority Nurse Writer
These nine dudes are strong. They’re tough. They’re rugged. They’re not sissies. They ride Harleys and snowboards. They play basketball and rugby. They’ve served in the Army and the Navy. Oh, by the way, they also happen to be nurses. And they’ve got a question for you, mister: Are you man enough to be a nurse?
This attention-getting, “macho man” approach to attracting guys into nursing is the brainchild of the Oregon Center for Nursing (OCN), a nonprofit organization formed in 2001 to develop solutions for addressing the state’s severe RN shortage. Because only about 8% of Oregon’s RN workforce is male, OCN decided to target its initial recruiting efforts to this population, and to create an awareness campaign that would deliver a bone-crushing blow to the number one barrier that prevents boys and young men from considering nursing as a career: the persistent stereotype that “nursing is for girls.”
The “Are You Man Enough?” campaign was the result of extensive input from high school and middle school guidance counselors. According to OCN Executive Director Dr. Deborah Burton, “They told us that the soft-sell ‘if you like people and want to care for them’ approach doesn’t resonate with boys. ‘What you need to do,’ they said, ‘is find nurses who are stereotypically male and then emphasize the male aspects of nursing—such as courage, technical skill, risk-taking and assertiveness.’ So we said, ‘Let’s see if we can find some stereotypically male practicing nurses who look male, act male and love nursing.’”
The nine nurses OCN chose are depicted on a poster, sponsored by the Northwest Health Foundation, that was distributed last November to every middle school, high school and community college in Oregon. The “poster boys”—who have also made presentations at schools and conferences—range in age from 24 to 64 and represent a diverse range of races, ethnicities and nursing specialties. They include, for example, Sang Kim, RN, cardiac telemetry nurse and snowboarding enthusiast; Yuri Chavez, RN, CRNA, nurse anesthetist and marathon runner; and motorcycle-riding Don Muccigrosso, RN, a poison specialist nurse.
The response to the campaign has been “overwhelming,” Burton reports. “I’ve gotten tons of calls,” she explains, “not only from students and parents, but also from a group I didn’t expect: career-changing men who had given no thought to nursing until they saw this. They said, ‘I don’t know why I didn’t think of nursing—it pays well, there’s job security, but it was never on my radar screen as a possibility.’” OCN has also introduced a class for high-school students called “Men in Scrubs,” which Burton describes as “an all-day immersion in nursing, taught by male nurses, for boys only.”
For more information, or to order copies of the “Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse?” poster, contact OCN at (503) 943-7150 or visit www.oregoncenterfornursing.org.