Letter to the Editor on "The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?"

The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different?

June 20, 2006

in response by Bill Frank to topic The Nursing Shortage: Is This Cycle Different? (Jan. 31, 2001)

Dear Editor:

I write in response to the Nursing Shortage Topic. We have been dealing with a critical shortage of nurses for several years and appear to be at a loss on how to solve this dilemma. . Nursing schools are filled to maximum capacity; hospitals and nursing homes are paying large sign-up bonuses; but the nursing shortage continues. What is being done right now isn't working. Repeat, what is being done right now IS NOT working. What is the answer to the million dollar question: how can the nursing shortage be alleviated?

Men who are now in the nursing field are showing that they can make great nurses. They are career-oriented and motivated by the tremendous opportunities in the field. Male patients prefer male nurses in those embarrassing hospital situations. If half the patients in hospitals are men, then shouldn't half of the nursing staff be men? Yet our nursing schools are not producing equal numbers of both men and women nurses. Why not?

The main issue why only 5-10% of nursing students are men is that nursing is considered woman's work. Some say that this stereotype doesn't exist. Yet ignoring the stereo type doesn't squash it, but rather perpetuates it. The male nurse often has his sexuality questioned. The movie, Meet the Parents, is prime example. When Gaylord Focker is questioned on his reasons to be only a nurse, his sexuality is questioned. The stereotype is alive and well and blocking an honorable profession from moving forward.

Men are providers. They are defined by their job. A job is a man's hot button, a major motivator. It is a big part of his ego. "I practice Law, I'm a Sanitation Engineer, I'm a Father, I'm a (fill in the blank)." Men say what they do with pride. It is how they are wired. Ask a male nurse what he does and he often responds by saying, "I'm a ER nurse, I'm a Surgical nurse, or I'm a Trauma nurse." Some say, "I'm an RN." However, what is said is always something to minimize the nursing part of the job title, because if a man says, "I'm a nurse," the next response is almost always, "So you're a male nurse?" A man's identity/pride is tied to his job title and this title isn't working.

I think it is obvious that what is needed is a more politically correct title for the profession. Stewardesses aren't stewardesses anymore; they are now "flight attendants." Secretaries are now "administrative assistants" and house wives are "domestic engineers." I have been racking my brain, asking hundreds of nurses what to rename a nurse. Why don't you, right now, try to come up with a new name yourself. Ask around, remembering that if you change the title nurse, the names of all schools of nursing will have to change, too.

I checked the definition of nurse in Webster's Dictionary and found that a nurse is a person who takes care of the sick and infirmed. By that definition almost anyone can be a nurse. Then I looked up the word medic and found the only definition given is "someone who gives first aide on the battlefield." I don't think that adding a definition or two to the word medic would bother anyone. Hopefully the folks at Webster's will accept one or two additional definitions.

I polled several male nurses and posed the question, "If you could be a called a medic instead of a nurse, how would that make you feel?" The response was overwhelmingly positive. Then I told some women nurses about this idea, and they said that they would like that title as well. I was really surprised. So what I propose is really quite simple: Don't change anything...add the word medical to the title.

Does this mean schools of nursing will need to change their names? Yes, but not very much, not to the School of Medics but to the School of Medical Nursing. This would both differentiate the school of nursing from a school that teaches breastfeeding and elevate the profession. By simply shortening the word medical to medic, a new title is born, allowing a nurse to be called a medic for short. If nurses are more comfortable being called a nurse, fine, let them be called a nurse. But allow the choice. Allow the man to call himself a medic. The male nurse will proudly refer to himself as a medic. His psyche is beaming. Wasn't that easy? Now it can be cool to be a nurse, I mean a medic.

Men are now working their way up in the nursing field. At a local area hospital, the Nurse of the Year has been a male twice now. Let the debate begin. Something, anything. Just realize that this new name for a nurse may indeed be the answer; its worth a try. What nursing is doing now isn't working. The shortage of nurses could be solved by making nursing a man's career as well as a woman's career.

Personally, I think this is the solution to that million dollar question. So shouldn't the solver of the million dollar question be entitled to at least to a million dollars? I won't ask for a million dollars. I'm only asking for your help. I invite your comments and suggestions; and I ask that every institution who likes this idea of changing the word nurse to medical/medic send $1,000. If that's too much, send something (but if you do have an extra million to share, send it). I will use the money to further the mission of solving the nursing shortage.

Bill Frank, BS
Specialist in Business Image Make-overs
Midwest City, OK