Journal of Nursing Education

The articles prior to January 2012 are part of the back file collection and are not available with a current paid subscription. To access the article, you may purchase it or purchase the complete back file collection here

Attracting Men to Nursing: What Will They Find Important in Their Career?

Michael Galbraith, PhD, RN

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This study was designed to increase understanding of the career choices of men in non traditional careers such as nursing by exploring what they find important in their career, their sex role identity, and their personality components. The instruments used in the study were the Important Components of a Career Scale, Bern Sex Role Inventory, and the Cattell 16 Personality Factor measure. Questionnaire packets were mailed to a total of 1,000 potential respondents in the following five groups: male and female nurses and early educators, and male engineers. The response rate was 46%. The men in nursing (n = 57) and early education (n = 76) valued relationshiporiented components of their careers more than the men in engineerings = 103) (F [2,233] = 35.39, p < .01).

Abstract

ABSTRACT

This study was designed to increase understanding of the career choices of men in non traditional careers such as nursing by exploring what they find important in their career, their sex role identity, and their personality components. The instruments used in the study were the Important Components of a Career Scale, Bern Sex Role Inventory, and the Cattell 16 Personality Factor measure. Questionnaire packets were mailed to a total of 1,000 potential respondents in the following five groups: male and female nurses and early educators, and male engineers. The response rate was 46%. The men in nursing (n = 57) and early education (n = 76) valued relationshiporiented components of their careers more than the men in engineerings = 103) (F [2,233] = 35.39, p < .01).

Introduction

Over the last 2 decades, there has been a dramatic increase in interest in gender and its relation to work in the home and outside the home. Most of this attention has focused on working women; another component of the increased gender mobility has been largely overlooked - namely, men who choose work characterized as women's work (Brod, 1987; Reiner, 1982).

Researchers have demonstrated clearly why women want to pursue employment in traditionally male arenas (Angrist & Almquist, 1975; Nieva & Gutek, 1981), but reasons for men pursuing careers in traditionally feminine occupations are understood less well. As Lemkau (1984) has suggested, a better understanding of those who have made atypical career choices can serve to increase the range of career options considered by young people, thereby contributing to alleviation of sex segregation in our society. This is of particular importance in light of the current nursing shortage.

Review of the Literature

Men still constitute a very small percentage of the nursing work force; over the last several years, the number of male nurses has never exceeded 5% of the profession (Christman, 1988a; Vaughn, 1984).

Sexism has been suggested as one reason for nursing's lack of appeal to men (Johnston, 1979), and some male nurses have experienced direct and open discrimination as well as subtle criticism from their peers, coworkers, and employing institutions (Brown, 1986; George & Quattone, 1989; Hardy, 1988; Holt, 1982). Further, some have reported that men in nursing felt they had low occupational status and experienced tension, anxiety, and role strain and reversals (Egeland & Brown, 1988; Laroche & Livneh, 1983, 1986; Schoenmaker & Radosevich, 1975; Segal, 1962; Vaz, 1968).

In addition, some men in nursing report prejudicial experiences that reflect negative societal evaluations like those experienced by other minorities. Yet other male nurses report no sense of increased social isolation (Fairhurst & Snavely, 1983). Tumminia (1981) and Tumminia and Peterson (1984) note that men in the nursing profession struggle with the issues of minority status, gender role conflict, and lack of role models. Mayo ( 1976) suggests that these problems are compounded by an even more basic one, namely, sex role socialization, which begins before birth.

Christman (1980, 1988b) points out that the sexual revolution that has allowed women to move into fields traditionally dominated by men also allows men to pursue careers in what have been traditionally labeled professions for women. Marks (1980) says that if women have social permission to be assertive, then men should be able to develop their caring and compassionate side. Both Christman and Marks note that if there is more equality and less sexism, the resulting patient care will be more human, more equal, and more cost-effective because more attention will be focused on the patient and less energy expended on battling dysfunctional stereotyped attitudes.

Research data on men in nursing are sketchy at best. Men who find satisfaction in a strongly expressive profession seem to be relatively unstudied (Davis-Martin, 1984). One question often asked is why men choose nursing. Taylor, Dwiggins, Albert, and Dearness (1983) suggest that the majority of men who are nurses simply want the ability to do three things: provide a health service, work with people, and earn a living. Interview and survey data indicate that most men in nursing are interested in job security, the sciences, and work in a humanistic field, and that they desire personal and professional mobility. In addition, these men report that they value and are satisfied with the relational aspects of their professional lives (Bush, 1976; Mannino, 1963; Okrainec, 1986; Williams, 1973).

Some earlier studies found that men in nursing had vocational interests and personality characteristics that were more traditionally feminine than men in traditional male occupations. They tended to be older, were more often married, had more previous contacts with the health care system, and tended more often to have female occupational role models (Aldag, 1970; Aldag & Christensen, 1967).

In addition, male nursing students scored high on normed empathy; social, esthetic, and theoretical interest scales; and lower on scales measuring economic and political interest (Garvin, 1976; MacDonald, 1977). Other normed comparisons demonstrate that men in nursing are more emotionally stable, more outgoing, more abstract, yet more tender-minded than their male counterparts in other careers (Cooper, Lewis, & Moores, 1976; Gumley, McKenzie, Ormerad, & Keys, 1979; Lemkau, 1984).

The conclusions derived from studies and opinion articles are sketchy and discrepant, however. On one hand, there are reports of lowered self-concept, while on the other hand, men in nursing are said to benefit from the opportunity to explore relatively uncharted career areas for men. One solution to this apparent problem of conflicting perceptions is to ask men in nursing what they find important in their professional career. This study surveyed male nurses and compared their views and characteristics with their female peers, with males in another nontraditional occupation (early education) and their female peers, and with men in the traditional male occupation of engineering.

Method

Participants

Two hundred potential respondents from each of five different groups (1,000 total) were selected for this study. They included male and female registered nurses, male and female early educators, and male engineers. The nurses and early educators were systematically randomly selected from lists of all nurses and early educators in the four southern California counties. The list of nurses was generated from data provided by the California Board of Registered Nursing. The list of early educators was compiled by Market Data Retrieval, an organization that contacts each elementary school yearly in California to obtain listings of all teachers. The engineers were systematically randomly selected from an alumni directory of a southern California college.

One thousand questionnaire packets were mailed; 108 were not delivered. A total of 407 were returned; 20 were not usable, which left 387 completed questionnaires representing a response rate of 46%. Respondents included 76 male and 77 female educators, 57 male and 74 female nurses, and 103 engineers.

An introductory letter was sent to potential respondents informing them that they would be receiving a questionnaire packet in about a week. This was followed by the questionnaire packet itself, a stamped return envelope, and a cover letter that told them more about the study and encouraged their participation. There were two follow-up reminder mailings.

Instruments

The questionnaire packet contained four instruments: the Important Components of a Career scales, the Cattell 16 Personality Factor measure, the Bern Sex Role Inventory (Short Form), and a demographic information questionnaire. The instruments took approximately 35 minutes to complete.

Important Components of a Career (ICC) Scales. The investigator-developed Important Components of a Career (ICC) scales are comprised of six subscales designed to measure relationship- and nonrelationship-oriented career components. The subscales include items measuring the importance of respondents' relationships with coworkers (RP), relationships with their clientele (RC), relationships overall (RG), financial rewards (MN), power in their work (PW), and the prestige (PS) of their current career. Respondents were asked to indicate on a 5-point Likerttype scale the importance of these dimensions in their career.

The tool was pilot- tested with 60 subjects in an earlier study (Galbraith, 1987), and the subscales were then refined to contain six to nine items each with reliability coefficients of RP = .74, RC = .84, RG = .79, MN = .91, PW = .88, and PS = .86. As a check for construct validity, the factor analysis procedure was applied to the pilot data. The six subscales loaded onto two factors with respective loadings of RP = .78, RC = .86, RG = .91, and PW = .67, MN = .70, PS = .91, indicating that subscale items reflected two distinct dimensions as predicted - relationshipand nonrelationship-oriented components.

A second reliability and validity check was conducted on the six subscales as a part of the current study. Cronbach's alpha yielded reliability coefficients of RP = .77, RC = .85, RG = .83, MN = .86, PW = .79, and PS = .81. The Varimax rotated factor matrix revealed that the six subscales again measured two distinctly different concepts: relationship- and nonrelationship-oriented components. Relationships with peers, relationships with clientele, and relationships in general scales loaded onto one factor and power, money, and prestige subscales loaded onto another factor (Table 1).

Table

TABLE 1Factor Loadings of the Six Scales

TABLE 1

Factor Loadings of the Six Scales

Calteli 16 Personality Factor Measure (16PF). The Cattell 16PF is a personality measure that has been in use and under constant refinement since 1949. Form C of the 16PF comprises 105 items; each of the 16 scales has six to eight items asking the respondent how close each phrase comes to describing his or her personality. Each item has three response choices and can receive a score of 0, 1, or 2. The scores for each item in a scale are summed and converted to a standard score. Reported reliability for the 16 scales ranges from .67 to .86 (Cattell, Eber, & Tatsuoka, 1970).

Bern Sex Role Inventory, Short Form (BSRI-S). The BSRI was designed to investigate masculinity and femininity as independent dimensions (Bern, 1974). The short version of the BSRI contains half of the original 60 items. Twenty items are related to concepts usually associated with dimensions of masculinity and femininity and 10 items are used as fillers. Respondents are asked to indicate on a 7-point Likert-type scale which items best describe themselves. The scale ranges from never to almost never true (1) to always or almost always true (7). The short form of BSRI is highly correlated with the original version (femininity with femininity scales, .87; masculinity with masculinity scales, .94). Reliability coefficients for the femininity and masculinity scales for women were .85 and .91 respectively, and for men were .91 and .76 respectively (Bern, 1981).

A fourth part of the questionnaire contained items designed to obtain demographic and descriptive information about the respondents.

Results

At the average age of 26, the men in nursing (n = 57) were the oldest group of respondents when they started their nursing career; more than 29% reported having had two or more previous careers. A larger proportion of the men in nursing took responsibility for having been their own primary influence rather than having role models in deciding on a career (45% said they had no role model), but they agreed with the other occupational groups that their career was somewhat better than they had expected. The men in nursing were the least likely to be married (52%) and most likely to be living with a significant other (9%).

When the BSRI-S was used to explore the sex role identity of the sample, the men and women in nursing were similar in the frequency of androgynous and undifferentiated classifications. When compared to their male peers in early education, more men in nursing were placed in the masculine and fewer in the feminine category. Additionally, when compared to engineers, more men in nursing were classified as feminine and fewer as masculine (Table 2).

When men and women in nursing were compared using Cattell's 16PF measure, they differed on only one personality dimension - tough-mindedness versus tendermindedness; the men reported a greater degree of toughmindedness. When compared with the norms established for adult males, the men in nursing were more dominant and self-sufficient.

One-way analysis of variance revealed a significant difference between men in nursing and early education and men in engineering on a composite variable summing all three relationship-oriented scales (F [4,381] = 35.39, ? < .01). The nurses and early educators had significantly higher mean scores than the engineers (t [381] = 9.24, ? < .01). Individual scales also showed significant differences between the groups. Table 3 summarizes these results.

The men in nursing and early education found relationship-oriented items more important in their careers than did the engineers. Further, they rated items on the importance of relationships with clientele scale most important, whereas the men in engineering found these items least important. No differences were found among the groups on the power, prestige, or money subscales.

Discussion

Men in nursing and early education were expected to find relationship-oriented factors more important in their careers than did men in engineering. This was clearly the case. However, it is noteworthy that the three groups of men did not differ greatly in how important they found nonrelationship-oriented factors such as money, power, and prestige in their career. Further, the men in nursing and early education both had higher masculinity scores than the men in the traditionally male career of engineering and were more tough-minded than their female peers. This perspective is consistent with Bern's (1981) earlier research on psychological androgyny. She determined that people who had strong masculine and feminine traits would be better equipped psychologically to cope with the complexities of contemporary life. Men in nursing appear to fit this description. It appears that even though men in ontraditional roles focus on relationship-oriented compoin their career, they retain traditional male-oriented components.

Table

TABLE 2Sex Role Identity Classifications According to the BSRI-S for the Five Groups of Respondents

TABLE 2

Sex Role Identity Classifications According to the BSRI-S for the Five Groups of Respondents

Table

TABLE 3F Tests and A Priori Contrasts Comparing Relationship-Oriented Factors of Men in Nursing and Early Education with Men in Engineering

TABLE 3

F Tests and A Priori Contrasts Comparing Relationship-Oriented Factors of Men in Nursing and Early Education with Men in Engineering

It is interesting to note that a considerable amount of upport has been given to women who cross traditional sex boundaries in the workplace in search of the benefits iffered by a male-intensive career, such as increased or prestige, and yet retain their feminine perspective (Lemkau, 1984). However, there is less support for men who want to cross the same sex role boundary to add the relationship or expressive components they find inherently rewarding to their personal lives and occupational experiences. This research could be viewed as support for the position that men in nontraditional work retain traditional components of their masculinity while adding activities they find important and personally rewarding, such as relationship-oriented processes. They are open to sex role alternatives without changing their existing sex role identity.

The present study had two limitations. First, this study is not generalizable to all men in nursing. Even though a systematic random sampling procedure was used to obtain the sample, the geographic location was limited and the response rate was lower than expected. A second limitation of the present study is the construct validity of the ICC measure. There may be factors in addition to the elements measured by the ICC that men in nursing find important in their career. While neither of these limitations should prevent the research findings from being applied at least conservatively, further investigation is needed to provide a more complete perspective of what men find important in a career where they have few male peers. This could be explored by using an open-ended interview format to ask men who are working as nurses to describe in detail what they find important in their career. Prom this point, the unique experiences of men in nursing could be more clearly understood.

The implications of this research apply most directly to the issue of recruiting men into the nursing profession. Little has been said about the advantages and rewards of relationally oriented work: it is much more attractive to extol the virtues of careers with rewards such as greater power, prestige, or pay. Men who are potentially interested in nursing may benefit from knowing what qualities in their career are rewarding and important to men who are currently practicing professional nursing. The prospective male nurse could benefit from knowing that men in nursing feel they have been enriched by being able to express both masculine and feminine traits as nongenderized human traits in their personal and professional lives. Further research is needed to explore how men develop peer support networks in a profession that is dominated by women, and whether retention issues are different for men and women in nursing. Focusing on these unique experiences of being a man in nursing may have a favorable impact on the overall nursing shortage.

References

  • Aldag, J.C. (1970). Occupational and nonoccupational interest characteristics of male nurses. Nursing Research, 19, 529-534.
  • Aldag, J.C., & Christensen, C. (1967). Personality correlates of male nurses. Nursing Research, 16, 375-376.
  • Angrist, S.S., & Almquist, E. M. (1975). Career contingencies. New York: Dunellen.
  • Bern, S. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-162.
  • Bern, S. (1981). Bern Sex-Role Inventory. Palo Alto: Consulting Psychologists Press.
  • Brod, H. (1987). The making of masculinities: The new men's studies. Boston: Allen & Unwin.
  • Brown, M. (1986). "Why won't they let us deliver babies?" RN, 49, 61-62.
  • Bush, P.J. (1976). The male nurse: A challenge to traditional role identities. Nurse Forum, 15, 390-405.
  • Cattell, R.B., Eber, H.W., & Tatsuoka, M.M. (1970). Handbook for the sixteen personality factor questionnaire. Champaign, 111: Institute for Personality and Ability Testing, Inc.
  • Christman, L. (1980). Vantage point: Equal employment opportunities. Nursing, 10, 74.
  • Christman, L. (1988a). Men in nursing. The Annual Review of Nursing Research, 6, 193-205.
  • Christman, L. ( 1988b). Men in nursing. Imprint, 35, 75.
  • Cooper, G.L., Lewis, B.I., & Moores, B. (1976). Personality profiles of long serving senior nurses: Implications for recruitment and selection. International Journal of Nurses Studies, 13, 251257.
  • Davis-Martin, S. (1984). Research on males in nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 23, 162-164.
  • Egeland, J, & Brown, J. (1988). Sex role stereotyping and role strain of male registered nurses. Research in Nursing and Health, 11, 257-267.
  • Fairhurst, G.T., & Snavely, B.K. (1983). A test of the social isolation of male tokens. Academy of Management Journal, 26, 353-361.
  • Galbraith, M. E. (1987). The comparative importance of relationship versus nonrelationship oriented factors for men in the nontraditional employment of nursing. Loma Linda, CA: Loma Linda University School of Nursing. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED 279 971)
  • Garvin, B.J. (1976). Values of male nursing students. Nursing Research, 25, 353-357.
  • George, J., & Quattrone, M. (1989). Opposite sex stand-in nurses. Journal of Emergency Nursing, 15, 53-54.
  • Gumley, C.J., McKenzie, J, Ormerad, M.M., & Keys, W. (1979). Personality correlates in a sample of male nurses in the British Royal Air Force. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 4, 355-364.
  • Hardy, L. (1988). Men in nursing: A perspective. Alberta Association of Registered Nurses Newsletter, 44, 9-10.
  • Holt, EX. (1982). A male nurse is more than muscle! RN, 45, 102-104.
  • Johnston, T. (1979). The sexist in nursing: Who is safe? Nurse Forum, 18, 204-205.
  • Laroche, E., & Livneh, H. (1983). Regression analysis of attitudes towards male nurses. Journal of Psychology, 113, 67-71.
  • Laroche, E., & Livneh, H. (1986). The factorial structure American attitudes towards male nurses. The Journal Social Psychology, 126, 679-680.
  • Lemkau, J.R (1984). Men in female dominated professions: Distinguishing personality and background features. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 24, 110-122.
  • MacDonald, M.R. (1977). How do male and female students rate on empathy? The American Journal of Nursing, 77, 998.
  • Mannino, S. (1963). The professional man nurse: Why he chose nursing and other characteristics of men in nursing. Nursing Research, 12, 185-188.
  • Marks, L.N. ( 1980). Nursing is not a women's profession. RN, 43, 81-86.
  • Mayo, R.P. (1976). A nurse can be a man or a woman. The American Journal of Nursing, 76, 1318-1319.
  • Nieva, VF., & Gutek, B.A. (1981). Women and work: A psychological perspective. New York: Praeger Publishing Co.
  • Okrainec, G. (1986). Men in nursing. Canadian Nurse, 82, 16-18.
  • Reiner, J. W. (1982). Editor's introduction. Work and Occupations, 9, 267-269.
  • Schoenmaker, A., & Radosevich, D.M. (1975). Men nursing students: How they perceive their situation. Nursing Outlook, 24, 298-303.
  • Segal, B. E. (1962). Male nurses: A case study in status contradiction and prestige loss. Social Forces, 41, 31-38.
  • Taylor, E.W., Dwiggins, R., Albert, M., & Dearness, J. (1983). Male nurses: What they think of themselves and others. RN, 46, 61-64.
  • Tumminia, P.S. (1981). Teaching problems and strategies with male nursing students. Nurse Educator, 6, 9-11.
  • Tumminia, P., & Peterson, B. (1984). Recruitment and retention of men in nursing. The Journal of Practical Nursing, 34, 30-32.
  • Vaughn, D. (1984, March). Men in nursing. California Nurse, 79, 6-8.
  • Vaz, D. (1968). High school senior boys' attitudes towards nursing as a career. Nurse Research, 17, 533-538.
  • Williams, RA. (1973). Characteristics of male baccalaureate students who selected nursing as a career. Nursing Research, 22, 520-525.

TABLE 1

Factor Loadings of the Six Scales

TABLE 2

Sex Role Identity Classifications According to the BSRI-S for the Five Groups of Respondents

TABLE 3

F Tests and A Priori Contrasts Comparing Relationship-Oriented Factors of Men in Nursing and Early Education with Men in Engineering

10.3928/0148-4834-19910401-11

Sign up to receive

Journal E-contents