We are taught in nursing school that all patients are individuals and that no assumptions should be made based off of disease, age, gender, etc. We must approach our patients with compassion and a longing to understand them and their circumstances. But is this emphasis on individuality also applied to us? Each person is an individual with a story. Take myself for instance. Had you told me three years ago that I would be halfway through nursing school, I would have called you crazy. I spent my whole life wanting to be an officer in the military. After a four-day hospital stay, my doctors discovered that I had suffered a transient ischemic attack (TIA), or ‘mini stroke’. I was left with my dreams crushed and curiosity about how this occurred. It was this curiosity that led me to where I am now.
My path took me from Army ROTC, a male dominated world, to nursing school. In nursing school, I am one of only three men. In today’s age, a lot of emphasis is rightfully placed on female equality in the workplace. It is interesting to consider how men are treated in the opposite setting. I have had nurses warn me to stay away from certain patients because they refuse to be cared for by a male nurse. The first time it happened, I felt surprised and awkward. Thankfully, the nurses on the floor were all supportive, and I was able to move past it quickly. Yet why am I limited in my practice when male physicians are almost never barred from their patients? This is why respecting everyone’s individuality is essential. The real world isn’t fair, and I’m not going to be upset at my patients for discomfort around male nurses. The nurses and my professors were are supportive and understanding. I think that is the key to ensuring a positive workplace environment and culture. If all we did was focus on each other’s weaknesses, the workplace would become hostile. This is evident in the hospitals where you see certain employees exclude others, whether due to profession, gender, or simple dislike. I believe incorporating and respecting everyone’s individuality is the only way that we can ensure that healthcare is focused on working together as a team to serve patients.
As a student, I thankfully have not had any major issues when it comes to being treated differently for being a male student. Yet people often mention how easy it is for males to get into nursing school. Since I am a student and not an admissions director, I cannot comment to whether or not this is a true statement. I do know however, that I was on the higher side of GPAs when compared to the rest of the cohort. Despite not knowing my qualifications or experiences, the assumption with almost everyone I talk to is that it was easier for me to gain admission. I do not take these comments personally, but it is intriguing when thinking about a male who failed our first semester, and it makes me question whether the rumors could be true.
The other gender issue I see from time to time from afar, is when discussing whether there is a pay gap. I have read articles from several organizations that mention a pay gap between male and female nurses. Since I do not yet work as a nurse, I can not speak to personal experiences of any kind of pay gap. What I do notice in every one of these article is the arguing and lateral violence that occurs in all of the comment sections. It is surprising that even in a women dominated profession, men may still be paid more. Yet despite these imbalances, I hope that my peers won’t make generalizations about me when I enter the workforce. This again speaks to the pursuit of treating everyone as an individual so that we can better focus on the care of our patients.