1. Schoonover-Shoffner, Kathy PhD, RN

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Have you ever felt discriminated against? I've experienced sexual harassment, been considered inferior for mannish tasks I was physically and mentally qualified to do and been in situations where women were not allowed to participate (literally or figuratively). Physicians are given more prominence and considered to know everything I as a nurse know, plus a whole lot more. The fact that professional nursing broadly emcompasses health and prevention of illness/injury or that we treat through a unique caring relationship that attends to the physical/social environments and range of human responses, doesn't make a difference. People (and many physicians) continue to believe that nursing knowledge is totally encompassed by medicine. Educationally, I've discovered a PhD isn't worth near as much as an MD, DO or DVM outside the university setting.

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Having experienced such inequities, I was surprised to discover the extent of discrimination in nursing toward men. I knew men represent only six percent of the 2.3 million nurses in America, but I had no idea of the reasons why. To my shame I realized that I-an educated, professional woman who supposedly hates inequality-have discriminated against men in nursing.


I learned my women's liberation attitudes exclude my male colleagues. Men report they have to be careful in their conversations and actions with female colleagues because they don't want to appear paternalistic or sexist. Then we (the women) turn around and treat them as muscle. One nurse said he would not open doors for female colleagues because they think it's chauvinistic. Men relay concerns about how they touch patients and colleagues, fearing they will be perceived as inappropriate or even homosexual. They believe people think their female counterparts are more caring because we're mothers and naturally caring (see Haas and KSS, pp. 13-17).


In a discussion on, a nurse wrote that when people say, "Oh, so you're a male nurse?" He replies, "No, I treat females too!!" He explains, "Saying male is exclusive. I'm not a male nurse; I'm a nurse." Another nurse said patients think he is a physician when he enters their rooms, and he has to repeat several times, "No, I will be your nurse for the day." People insinuate men educated in nursing are underachievers. Some men combat this by saying, "I'm a trauma nurse" or "I'm an ICU nurse," which communicates self-respect.


We also discriminate against men in nursing education and employment. Men believe both the public and their female colleagues continue to think of nursing as a female occupation. Educators say open discrimination against men is disappearing but remains imbedded in nursing schools. The American Assembly of Men in Nursing says men report at their annual meeting every year that they are denied equal employment opportunities, specifically in advancement and promotions and working in women's health. Furthermore, the feminization of our conversations in practice and education alienates them. Men would like to say, "Nursing is not a gender-based occupation; nursing is a profession!!"


As I reflected on how I have treated male colleagues, I thought about what the apostle Paul wrote at a time of great racial, gender and economic discrimination: "There is no longer Jew or Greek [horizontal ellipsis] slave or free [horizontal ellipsis] no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3:28). He explained that dividing walls between people have been abolished by Christ (Eph 2:14-17).


We need to recognize that Jesus eliminated alienation and discrimination. We facilitate the ending of discrimination in nursing as we look at Jesus and try to be like him. Jesus greatly limited himself in becoming human, and then allowing us to kill him with a cruel, degrading death on a cross (Phil 2). Jesus had the mindset I need to have: "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others" (Phil 2:3-4).


I've started thinking about what it's like to be a man working in nursing. And, I'm going to start trying to look out for my brothers.