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By Dr. Teresa Sienkiewicz, EdD, RN, Kaplan University
The 40th American Assembly of Men in Nursing (AAMN) conference was held September 2015 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The gathering was a celebration of the contributions of men to the nursing profession. The AAMN meets every year in a professional conference that covers a variety of professional topics.
Historically, men have held an important position in the nursing profession. Nursing holds a debt of gratitude to monks throughout Europe, who started the first hospitals to care for the ill. These monks created and administered hospitality homes, early hospitals, for the purpose of caring for the sick. They were very adept at nursing the ill and administering their hospitals. These men were the primary caregivers and administrators of the hospitals. Society accepted these men as nurses in the role as the primary caregivers.
The role of men in nursing changed with Florence Nightingale and her insights on nursing (Nightingale, 1860). Nightingale changed nursing and nursing history. Her references to the nurturing profession of nursing served to change the public image of nursing to an exclusively female profession because females were the accepted nurtures, the mothers in a gender-segregated society. From this point forward, women dominated the nursing profession. Nursing became a profession that was a safe refuge for women who needed to support themselves in a time when it was largely unacceptable for women to work. Most people believed that women were supposed to be home as the primary caretaker and nurturer. Men in nursing began to take a back seat (Ozimkiewicz, 2013).
Females dominated the public image of nursing for decades after Nightingale’s work became public. This was true throughout the early and middle parts of the twentieth century. For example, men were not allowed to serve as nurses in the U.S. military throughout the Korean War, were excluded from the Army Nurse Corp, and not commissioned as officers until 1955 (Ozimkiewicz, 2013).
The advent and popularity of television served to promote the image of female nurses. Throughout the twentieth century nurses were portrayed in movies and television shows as female, thus perpetuating the gender exclusion (Price & McGillis Hall, 2014). It was an unspoken assumption that nurses were women.
Discrimination against male nurses led to overt discriminatory behavior. According to McMurry (2011), male nurses and nursing students are often the victims of stereotyping. Male nurses are assumed to be feminine, in a lesser position, or are tracked into certain areas that are seen as more appropriate for males.
The AAMN’s 40th annual conference covered many interesting topics. There was also a wide diversity of nurses ranging from interprofessional practice to recruiting and retaining professionals in an interprofessional workforce service. There were male and female nurses and nurses from all areas of the profession’s practices including administrators, managers, advanced practice nurses, bedside nurses, and students. These nurses came from all areas of the country with a great diversity of interests. One young male student was completing his duel midwife and family nurse practitioner degree. He came to investigate the group and was looking for support in his chosen field.
Men like this bring nursing full circle, from the historical beginnings with men blazing the trail of the nursing profession and continuing to this day by continuing the tradition of caring for those who need their care and expertise. The 41st annual conference will be September, 2016, in Miami, Florida, which will be worth investigating to see how the nurses of the AAMN are advancing the nursing profession.
Teresa Sienkiewicz is a professor at Kaplan University. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not represent the view of Kaplan University.
ReferencesAmerican Assembly of Men in Nursing (2016). Retrieved from http://www.aamn.org/pastconf.
McMurry, T. (2011). The Image of Male Nurses and Nursing Leadership Mobility. Nursing Forum, 46(1), 22-28 7p. doi:10.1111/j.1744-6198.2010.00206.x
Nightingale, F. (1860). Notes on Nursing: What It Is and What It Is Not (1st ed.). D.E. Appleton: New York.Ozimkiewicz, K. (2013). Men in Nursing: Past and Present. Interaction, 30(1), 15-15 1p.
Price, S. L., & McGillis Hall, L. (2014). The history of nurse imagery and the implications for recruitment: a discussion paper. Journal Of Advanced Nursing, 70(7), 1502-1509 8p. doi:10.1111/jan.12289
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