Male Nursing

In 2004, men made up 3.2% of Saskatchewan's nursing workforce; below the Canadian average of 5.4%. Nursing is a profession traditionally associated with women. Even today, when women make up increasing percentages of traditionally male fields, such as law and medicine, men have not seen a parallel increase in their numbers in the nursing workforce.

"Among male RNs the most frequently identified areas of responsibility in 2004 were Medicine/Surgery (17.6%), Psychiatry/Mental Health (13.2%), Critical Care (9.3%) and Emergency Room (9.0%). Despite the fact that males comprise only 5.4% of the RN workforce, males account for 14.4% of all RNs employed in Psychiatry/Mental Health" (Canadian Institute for Health Information, 38). The Weyburn psychiatric facility, for example, had a full complement of male nurses to work the male patient wards. For a large portion of the institution's history, female nurses were not allowed to work on the male wards.

Male nurses were some of the pioneers of the profession, tending to wounded soldiers during wars. But since the actual registration of nurses began, men have made up a very small proportion of them.

The reason for such a small number of male nurses is difficult to determine. Cultural and social biases that discourage men from entering nursing certainly play a role. An article published in the March 2004 issue of On Campus News , a University of Saskatchewan newsletter, points to stereotyping as the main barrier to males entering the nursing profession. Male nurses will often be mistaken for doctors; a stereotype that has been difficult to overcome. Furthermore, a lack of role models in the profession and among university faculty is a factor. The University of Saskatchewan College of Nursing "has made a concerted effort to hire male faculty (it has two)...but it has yet to provide protected seats for male students as it does for Aboriginal applicants, another group underrepresented in the profession" (On Campus News). An article in a University of British Columbia newsletter also points to the portrayal of nurses as seductive females in movies and on television as a contributing factor (Forgacs).

Systemic biases of educational institutions, unions and workplaces are more difficult to pin down. Larry Connell, a nurse in Alberta, mentions that his union has a constitution that refers to nurses as "her" and "she", but mentions that he's willing to "work on that." His experience has been that most patients are receptive to male nurses and, except for the odd co-worker taking exception, gender has never been a barrier for him in his work.