Male Nurse Population Growing

What is it Like to Work as a Male Nurse?

Although a Census Bureau report reveals that the percentage of men working as registered nurses has nearly tripled since 1970, the nursing field is still strongly dominated by women. Still, only about 9.6 percent of RNs are male, and about 8.1 percent of LVN/LPNs are male. What is it like to be a minority male working in the nursing field?

We consulted with two men in the nursing field, both of whom work with the​ Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY), a not-for-profit organization that helps provide nurses to patients' homes throughout New York.

We asked​ Hung Hsin and Mark Andaya to share their background and experience working as nurses in New York, and below are their very insightful and informative answers.

Introduction: Please tell us about your nursing career background.

Male nurse pushing gurney looking at camera
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Hung Hsin: My name is Hung “Joe” Hsin. I have been a registered nurse since 2007. I started my career in health care back in 2003, when I studied to become an EMT. Since then, I joined FDNY EMS division in 2004 before deciding to transition into nursing. From there, I graduated from Kingsborough Community College in 2006 with an Associate’s Degree in Applied Science in Nursing and obtained my RN license after passing the Nursing Boards. After earning my degree, I started to work for Jamaica Hospital to obtain my clinical experience but had always aspired to join the Visiting Nurse Service of New York (VNSNY) and work in the homes of my clients. In August of 2007, I received the opportunity to join VNSNY to further my personal goals to help others. I continue to pursue my education while working, and with VNSNY’s tuition reimbursement program, have recently obtained my bachelor of science degree in n*ursing. I am now in the process of obtaining my master's degree to finally become a nurse practitioner.

Mark Andaya My name is Mark Andaya, and I’m the director of Quality Assurance and Education for Partners in Care, an affiliate of the not-for-profit Visiting Nurse Service of New York. I have more than 21 years of nursing experience in clinical, education and leadership roles in the hospital and home care settings. My background includes Rehabilitation and Geriatric Nursing and Healthcare Quality. I hold a bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York (1992) and a master’s degree from Columbia University (2002).

What is a typical work day like for you in your current role?

HH: A typical work day at VNSNY always begins with a cup of coffee and checking my work emails for any updated information. From there, I start to coordinate and schedule with clients that I plan on seeing that day. I contact them to confirm that they are aware of my planned visit as previously discussed from their last visit. I try to accommodate to each client's needs and requested times. From there, I double check with my manager on any new clients that we will be providing home care services to on that day. Each client requires different needs and my job is to recognize these needs and to support the clients through them. Such needs can be teaching about their conditions or medical issues with prevention management, providing wound-care assistance, teaching caregivers how to maintain a client’s independence, or just providing the positive encouragement and guidance needed to ensure that the client's safety and needs are met within the community. Furthermore, there are telephone calls and physician follow-ups that are needed in order to make sure that everyone is up to date with each client. At the end of a typical business day, a nurse's work is never done – documentation, physician calls and follow-up calls to clients are continued requirements.

MA: A typical work day involves hearing from staff and clients about how care is delivered to our customers.

How & when did you know you wanted to be a nurse? What challenges did you face?

HH: After becoming an EMT, I saw the difference in care between my job and how hospital nurses cared for their patients. That triggered my change in profession: I knew right then that I wanted to be a nurse.

One of the greatest challenges that I have faced in pursuing a career as a registered nurse was first trying to get into a nursing program. KCC had limited seats available for nursing students and a myriad of screening processes and exams just to get accepted. The second challenge was to give up working for the FDNY due to time conflict and the dedication needed for studying and clinicals. The critical thinking that was required in nursing school was so different than anything I’d ever done, and to this day I haven’t studied harder than I did in nursing school. But I look back on that time with a sincere appreciation for what the program has taught me and how I’m able to use those skills every day at VNSNY.

MA: I was majoring in Medical Technology studying different machines and how they’d be implemented in a hospital setting. As far as success goes, there was no reason for me to change subjects. I was acing all of my classes and, for the most part, it was interesting work. But one thing continued to hound me: It was missing the human element. I recognized that a career in nursing offered the ability for me to witness the impact I could make in a person’s life on a daily basis.

How has gender affected you in your career, and in your personal life if at all?

HH: Being a male nurse in a female dominated professional role has been mostly a positive experience for me. At times, I have had clients request for male nurses due to their positive experiences. Yes, there have been jokes thrown around about me being a nurse and the movie “Meet the Parents” didn't help much. However, the only negative thing I had to endure was the fact that someone had already gotten the special license plate before I did: “Murse.” My friends and family have applauded my efforts to become a nurse and have, at times, come to me for medical advice about their own ailments.

MA: In general, I have to be aware of how I am perceived by the clients I care for and ensure that my gender does not get in the way of providing professional quality care. Personally, I became more sympathetic to those who overcome stereotypes of any kind. There was never any defining moment of difficulty I had to endure, but rather several small examples of the typical nurse perception being reinforced.

When I was in nursing school, you’d hear it every day when the teacher would refer to a nurse. The default pronoun was always “she.” A lot of the time, the teacher would catch her mistake and revise her statement to include “he,” but as the only male in the classroom, it’s difficult not to feel a little self-conscious. I’m grateful that I joined an organization like Partners in Care and the Visiting Nurse Service of New York, where the quality of my work has always been the most important thing about me.

What advice would you give to other men considering a career in nursing?

HH: - Nursing is a serious career and is not an easy profession to pursue. However, if you have the dedication, a desire to help others above and beyond your needs and a willingness to accept the rewards of knowing that you made a difference in someone's life, then this is the career for you.
- Don't give up hope in pursuing a career in nursing. The path can be arduous. But nothing in life that is easy is worth fighting for. Once you get your BSN diploma and pass the nursing boards, your accomplishments would be worth more knowing that the impact that you will provide to others is rewarding in itself.
- Learn how to time manage and separate work from life. This is easier said than done, and even now I am still learning how to do this. There are a lot of support programs out there for nurses to help manage this.

MA: With a larger number of people growing older and requiring care, the nursing field is expanding, and so have the opportunities to have a rewarding nursing career. One of the most important things to focus on for anyone considering a position as a nurse is to get as much specialized training as possible. Patients are always looking for someone who possesses training in their specific condition. The more training you have, the more desirable you are to potential employers.

What do you enjoy most about your career in nursing?

HH: Nursing continues to grow in its scope of practice and is evolving every day. It is always changing with time. Its impact in the health care profession has grown to such influences that it is becoming one of the leading roles in health care. Nursing is involved in so many professional venues. Whether it’s within the homes of a community, schools, hospitals, nursing homes, etc., there are so many options that an aspiring nurse has. This variety alone, as well as the variety of people one can work with, is well worth exploring its potential.

MA: Feedback and encouragement from your colleagues is always helpful, but hearing sincere appreciation directly from a client is by far and away the most enjoyable aspect of this job. There’s nothing more rewarding.

Do you have any regrets about pursuing a career in nursing?

HH: To this day, I have no regrets choosing nursing as a career. My responsibility and Florence Nightingale’s oath that I have pledged myself to gives me the strength and light needed to push on. It is a result of this need to help others that has made me who I am and gives me the aspiration to improve myself even more. My only regret is that I should have listened to my mother first and become a nurse sooner.

MA: I have no regrets at all. Caregiving is a meaningful pursuit and is incredibly rewarding on a personal level.

Have you felt any evidence of discrimination or a stigma as a male nurse?

HH: I do not believe that there is really much of a stigma. If you can perform the roles and duties as a Registered Nurse, then what does gender have to do with anything? It is more of an optional preference for clients then a reputational issue. From my experience, I was informed that even during WWII, veterans have informed me that there were male nurses in the battlefield tending to wounded soldiers. If only to be part of an ever-changing profession and to continue the legacy of what it really means to be a nurse than it is an honor to be a male nurse.

MA: I believe there’s less of a stigma now when I think about the general perception than when I started more than 20 years ago. I also think that more and more people are seeing – both first-hand and anecdotally – how arduous and important the job is.

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