Yet another urban legend about the gender of a nurse

Here is my latest post over at Scrubs Magazine. This one touches on yet another myth about male nurses. This time the urban legend of physicians giving preferential treatment to male nurses.

I can’t say I like using the term ‘male nurse’, but it has staying power and clout when it comes to the circles of social media. I for one never use the darn term outside the internet. I find it misleading, confusing, and it sure doesn’t help alleviate the stereotypes out there by calling ourselves male nurses. But, the internet is what it is, so I’ll keep coining the term.

Male nurse myth #52: “The doctors treat a male nurse better/differently/preferentially than a female nurse” (by the way.. I have no idea how many myths are out there.. I just randomly picked a number).

This myth has been cropping up more and more lately. Not sure if it’s popularity is increasing, or I’m just paying attention more? The claim that a physician treats me better than my female co-workers is just hog-wash. Some claim it’s because I’m a ‘guy’. Some sort of male-bonding thing I guess? Other’s foolishly think doctor’s respect the ‘men’ more than the ‘women’. In the end, no matter what your theory is to explain this myth, it’s still just a myth. It AINT true.

As a male nurse (did I mention I hate that moniker), I get treated no differently based on my gender. My working relationship with any physician, just like all my other co-workers (regardless of gender), IS however directly correlated to my job performance.

The relationship between nurse and doctor is graded on a curve unfortunately. Let’s be honest here. A nurse who has keen critical thinking skills, an attention to detail work regimen and knows the golden rules of finely-balanced communication will have a great, strong, trusting and possibly stress-free relationship with any physician – once again regardless of the doctor or nurses’ gender.

A nurse who cannot efficiently prioritize their care, carelessly approaches their responsibilities, and either over or under communicates will struggle. They will have stress-saturated encounters with physicians and continue to improperly place passive blame.

The irony of it all, is that most physicians that trust your skills and your judgment end up treating you differently simply because they are comfortable enough to be ‘social’ with you.

Sure, men bond over ‘sports’ and other ‘manly’ things. Just like women bond over ‘fashion’ and other ‘girly’ things. I think one of the sources for this myth might have something to do with sheer numbers? I mean the majority of physicians are men (although not for long) and the number of men on a nursing unit is far smaller than women. So to single out a man and his working relationship with the physician’s just might be a statistical fact or anomaly (once again I’m just spit-balling here).

I’ve seen it balanced across the gender table. Physicians could care less what your gender is, what they care about is what kind of nurse you are, what kind of care you provide, and can they trust you.

Ask a fellow nurse, we all know the difference between a good and bad nurse. Need I remind you of the subconscious comments we all make to ourselves when we find out we are working with ‘that’ nurse or getting report from ‘that’ nurse.

During my career I’ve learned the hard way that you don’t want to be on the wrong side of that line. There have been many times where I have had to ‘check’ myself, and take a good hard look at what I was doing right and what I was doing wrong. I think it had a lot to do with just growing into my role (once again.. just my opinion).

Preferential/better/different treatment (of any kind), in my humble opinion, is a sign of respect from one professional to another. It’s never been about your gender.

Male nurse and the doctor’s favorite myth

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

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2 thoughts on “Yet another urban legend about the gender of a nurse

  1. I don’t see nurses being treated any differently – better or worse – based on gender here. Admittedly, I have probably not paid a ton of attention, though. I’ve also never heard anyone say that they think male nurses are treated better or worse.

    Your friend has a great point, though, about being treated based on how you approach your job. I’d be willing to bet all the men who go into nursing do so because they are passionate about it. No male would want to deal with society’s stigma and go into nursing if they just sort-of, kind-of wanted to be a part of the nursing world. Women, on the other hand, I feel like sometimes go into nursing just because it’s a traditional field for women to make decent money in. That opens up the door for a lot more female nurses who approach their job with a laissez-faire attitude. So, perhaps male-nurses are liked better by their colleagues…simply because there are fewer of them who went into nursing without a passion for the field.

    As someone who CONSTANTLY gets asked if I’m a nurse or in nursing school purely based on my gender I totally get how you feel. I think things will continue to even out as our generation begins to break down traditional barriers. I also get asked if my husband is the one in medical school pretty often…which is ironic considering he’s a computer geek that gets queazy at the thought of blood, puke or guts. I was banned from talking about any of my anatomy experiences when I started school, haha. 🙂

    I actually wrote about that here: http://focusdoctor.blogspot.com/2010/12/then-i-broke-old-ladys-zygomatic.html

    Anyway, I do find it ironic that your colleague proposed “male-bonding” as one of the possible explanations…considering that implies that all the doctors supposedly treating male nurses better are also male.

    “I mean the majority of physicians are men (although not for long)” <– That isn't true for a large majority of places in the US right now. Some specialties are still male dominated (ortho), but some are also female dominated (pedi, ob/gyn)…physicians are far more equal as far as gender goes than nurses are at this point in time.

    1. Wow. Wow. Double wow. You have no idea how excited I am to read your comments and read your blog. I already feel we walk the same path in so many ways with the gender stereotyping and myth flipped 180 degrees due to our chosen career and our obvious gender. I tend to agree with the oh-so obvious statistical facts b/t men-doctors and men-nurses. Be that as it may I will continue to fight the good fight wherever it may land. Thank you so very much for taking the time to comment Danielle. I appreciate more than you’ll ever know.

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