Friday, August 28, 2009

Dudes in nursing

The same reader (wow I have a smart following of n=1) asked some more questions so I'm responding. First I am not a 'dude' so I don't have first hand knowledge. However there are 12+ guys that work in my department as RN's so I have experience working with them. Here is the question:

Have you found that the guys in your classes or at work are any less competent than the women? Do they get treated any differently at work by patients, nurses and doctors? How are they managing to fit in with the overwhelmingly female workforce?

Or is it (like the nursing theory you mention) that the male gender is just something you bring into your patient interactions, and you can make masculinity a positive part of the nursing experience?
To start off with I think there are going to be 'bad apples' in any nursing class and workforce, so to say that one person was bad based on their gender wouldn't really be appropriate. I can tell you one thing, I think it would be harder to be a male nurse than a female one.

First, stereotypes abound. You would constantly be correcting people and say that you are a nurse when you go to talk to a patient (they will think you are a doctor). That must be annoying. You will also be known as the 'male nurse'- and people will know who you are in both classes and in the workforce. You are one of the few (although growing in numbers) men who are willing to tackle a challenging job.

Second, I don't think there is anything against male nursing, but men tend do things... well... differently. In my experience I find women nurses to be 'mothery' - even I catch myself doing it sometimes (and believe me I am not maternal). Men tend to think practically and logically- it's hard to explain and I don't think I'm communicating it well, but it almost seems as they are more decisive and less coddling with their patients. Again a stereotype.

I know that having a male working in the pod oftentimes changes the nature of nurse interactions- for the better. Whereas group-think and interactions in a bunch of females can be quite catty, in my experience throw one man along with the women and it tends to be much more neutral workplace. As for fitting-in with a majority-woman workforce, I guess that would be up to you and where you choose to work. Set boundaries about dating coworkers and stick to them. Keep an open mind and be ready to listen to 'girl-talk'. It sucks but that's sometimes what my colleagues have to put up with.

As for interactions with the physicians, I really couldn't say because that is fairly individual. Most MD's that I work with prefer nurses to be knowledgable, inquisitive, on top of things, and keep them informed of what's going on with their patients. Male vs female... I guess it depends on the group of doctors. In my department there are quite a few women doctors, and I haven't really noticed any male/female nurse differences.

One area that you probably will never work as a nurse will be OB/Gyn. No matter how "PC" some women are, when it comes to their vajay-jays, they prefer female nurses over males. You could be the best nurse ever when it comes to labour and delivery, but you probably will find that it will not really be an option for you in the workforce.

I also find that men seem to congregate in certain areas of the workforce- ED, ICU, or critical care. I'm sure there has been a study on this- but why they tend to work in those areas I do not know.

Finally, similar to female doctors in a male-dominated role- there will be some resistance from patients. Most 60+ year olds are not expecting their nurse to be male, nor are they expecting their doctor to be female. Anecdotal evidence (n=1... me this time) has told me that some little old ladies do not feel comfortable with a male helping wash her private parts. Although this is few and far between, as a male nurse I would assume you would need to not let it bother you if a patient requests a different (aka female) nurse. That being said, I have yet to hear of anyone doing this (exempting some cultural practices where they requested females for EVERY part of their interaction with the staff at the hospital).

Overall if you feel like tackling not only nursing school, but nursing itself, you probably have the right attitude. However if you hate working with women, perhaps you could find yourself a male dominated department, but otherwise nursing may not be for you.

There are some great male-nurse blogs out there, I'm thinking they would be a better resource than me!. Here are just a few:

I'm sure they could be a great resource for you.

Good luck!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Comments from the peanut gallery

A commenter asked a few questions (gotta love when a person gives you a post... I have been feeling very non-writerly for quite some time):
...were students in the compressed RN program treated any differently from the "regular" BScN students? Do you find that your health sci bachelors and epidemiology master's(?) helped you in understanding the BScN material, and made you a better nurse? Do you feel that one needs a Bio/Biochem/Health Sci background to succeed in the accelerated nursing program?

Or does it all come down to being able to successfully shove a needle into someone's veins and a Foley catheder into their bladder with consistency anyway, and all the BScN/Health Sci course stuff doesn't matter anyway?
Here's the scoop, and honestly this is just my opinion of my experience so I don't know if that will help you at all but here is my response.

Most compressed RN schools in Ontario have been introduced only recently as the need for RN's has increased. Because of this they are oftentimes working out kinks for the first few years. Also, most regular BScN classes are fairly well-established. My particular class was quite segregated from the 4-year program- because it was new and the student councils (etc) weren't used to including us. We received no 'pinning' ceremony or ritual nursey events, oftentimes the dates for fundraisers/events were planned the nights before major exams or while we were in clinical, we were forgotten for induction into special nursing organizations, and we weren't part of the general nursing graduation planning (this was our choice- by that time we just excluded ourselves from regular BScN stuff). I don't know if this has changed- it probably has as the program becomes more established. To be perfectly honest I pretty much preferred the way we kept to ourselves... I'm not one for the nursing fluff that is often generated surrounding 'social events'.

Not everyone in my class had a health science/biomed background, but most did. If you have never taken a science/health course, it may do you well to take at least one credit prior to nursing school (like anatomy or physiology) just so you can see how it goes. However if you enjoy the content and keep on top of things, doing the courses "excellerated" or "compressed" will be ok. It just means you don't have as much time for a social life or a job that you may have had if you were doing the regular time-frame. Most of my class, however, did have a part time job and managed to socialize regularly.

I find my background in health science helped more than my epidemiology when it comes to bedside nursing. It's all what you make of it though. Some days you are the task-completer. But most of the time you are constantly reprioritizing things based on data you receive, and the more knowledge you have, the better decisions you can make. The more you understand the global picture of both the patient and the disease the more I think you will appreciate things as well as provide better care. Anyone could start an IV or put in a catheter if given the training- not everyone could be able to understand why it is needed or what are its implications.

Did I need to have the other degrees to be able to do the job of the RN sucessfully? Quite frankly, no. My additional degree will help me later on when I'm trying to get a job in management or education if/when I go that route. I don't regret any decisions I made when I re-routed myself after a health science degree/masters, but sometimes I wonder where I would be now if I had done a double degree in Health Science/Nursing or gone right into nursing school out of highschool. Probably in less debt, but I would have still done a masters- albeit part time.

I'm not one to quote nursing theory (Gag me, please) but the one thing is true. No matter who you are your previous experience will play a part in your interaction with your patient. Whether it's a biochem/engineering/sociology/languages background, it will be a part of you and will influence you. It just depends on what you make of it.