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Percentage of male nurses at Glendale Adventist Medical Center is twice the national average

May 3, 2004 -- Today the News-Press (Southern California newspaper) ran a short piece by Ryan Carter about the increase in male nurses at a local hospital with an unusually high number of them. Although the piece depends on the no longer novel idea that "men are coming from various fields to enter a profession experiencing shortages as demand for medical care increases," and it could have done more to explore other reasons men might enter nursing, it is a fair article about male nurses, who are often maligned or overlooked.

According to the story, Glendale Adventist Medical Center employs 563 nurses, 68 of whom are male--and although 14 new male nurses last year hardly qualifies as a massive influx--the numbers appear to be increasing. Indeed, based on these figures, about 12% of the nurses at the hospital are male, twice the national average--this might have been the best overall hook for the piece, though it is not mentioned. Armen Hatamian, one of the nurses profiled, is an appealing figure, and he does touch on why a man might choose to become a nurse even apart from the current high demand. "'I volunteered for two years in the ER, and realized that as far as patient care goes, everything goes though the nurse,' Hatamian said. "The nurse is the link, the advocate for the patient.'" When asked about how he confronts the male nurse stereotype when talking to other potential male nurses, he says, "'I tell them to get over it, and if you would like to do it, do it...'" The piece stresses that male nurses are often mistaken for physicians, but notes that Hatamian "is not [a physician], and he is proud of that." Presumably the piece meant to describe his pride in being a nurse, rather than his pride at having avoided the medical profession.

The male nurses the reporter interviews come off as smart, capable, and well-spoken. The story would have been better without the underlying incredulity at men choosing nursing over other fields ("Hatamian was a pre-med student before trying nursing. The hospital even employs a nurse who was once a practicing psychologist..."). The article off-handedly mentions that the hospital's CEO, Scott Reiner, is a registered nurse, and we can only hope that the reporter is pitching that in-depth profile to his editors as we speak. The piece might also have explored whether there is any link between Mr. Reiner and the unusually high number of male nurses.

Sadly, as with most recent articles on nursing, there is a strong focus on the shortage, and the highlighted benefits of the profession are limited to the stock ones: working with people, constant employability, financial freedom, and the ubiquitous, yet vague, "caring for people." The piece would have been better had it stressed some of the most attractive (yet not well known) aspects of nursing, such as the fact that nurses are highly skilled professionals who save or improve lives every day, that the substantive specialties are incredibly diverse, that nurses often take the lead in patient education, and that nursing is a distinct science with thousands of advanced degree holders working on the cutting edge of health care research and scholarship.

See Ryan Carter's article "Equal opportunity nursing hires: Hospitals seeing spikes in the number of male nurses being hired" in the May 3, 2004 edition of the News-Press.

Written by Alison Colbert, RN, MSN, APRN, BC

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