You’re a nurse. You are educated and work hard but often feel like a second-rate cleaning lady.
You’re not the only one who thinks so. Jerry R. Lucas, RN and owner and publisher of Male Nursing Magazine, believes that it is the responsibility of nurses to make their future better than their past. Lucas is passionately devoted to enticing men and women to the nursing profession. And that’s the key word: “profession.” In this interview, Lucas discusses the mistreatment of nurses, arguing that they are skilled professionals, not nurse maids.
RealityRN: Do doctors treat male nurses differently than female nurses?
Jerry R. Lucas: Doctors are less likely to disrespect male nurses. I’ve heard doctors on the phone with the female nurses and a few are downright rude. It seems they feel like they can get away with that with the females, but they won’t do that with us, the male nurses, because we won’t take it. We’ll tell them to call back when they settle down, and then we hang up.
Why does this dynamic exist?
The nursing industry is seen as a predominately female environment. Male nurses are still running at about a 6 to 7 percent total. That is, of the 2,564,000 registered nurses in the United States, about 780,000 are men. The medical industry still views nurses as nothing more than nurse maids, bent on obeying the doctor’s will.
Do some nurses consider themselves nurse maids?
Yes, and I have an example. I received a letter from a female RN telling me about a hospital she used to work in. The nurse manager put a sign up dictating that whenever the doctor is present, the nurses are to get up and offer them a seat, get them whatever they need, including the file from the file cabinet right beside the doctor’s arm, and make sure they have a cup of coffee. It wasn’t long after the RN tore down the sign that she was gone from that area.
Do you think this view of nursing can be changed, realistically?
Absolutely. The nurse-maid view of nursing is part of what’s turning people away from the profession, especially men. Who wants to go through all the training to be considered a maid?
We are professionals educated to care for patients. And it’s not easy. After a doctor writes his or her five minutes worth of orders, after he or she spends that whole ten minutes at the bedside, nurses are busy for the next hour making sure that the care is accomplished.
Any solutions to the problem?
As there is more of a balance between males and females within nursing, the stigmatism of the nurse maid may increasingly disappear. Women and men alike will be able to gain more respect, and the effect could be a balanced and raised pay scale.
I also believe that nurses need to stop their mistreatment by standing up to the few doctors who bully them. This goes for both male and female nurses, but I’ve definitely seen that doctors are more polite to the male nurses because they won’t just sit there if they are being treated poorly. Women shouldn’t either. They are trained the same way I am. They do the same things that I do. They should be respected the same way, too.