A career in compassion
Training more men in the nursing profession means patients will benefit from a broader care perspective
By Kate Hunger
Miguel Salazar remembers how safe and loved nurses made him feel when he was a little boy recovering in the hospital.
“When I was 8 years old, I experienced something devastating,” he said. “I needed two blood transfusions, and I was in the hospital for more than month. One nurse — Dina — she stayed with me. She made
sure I was comfortable.”
That reassuring sense of being cared for is something Salazar, a Bachelor of Science in Nursing student in the School of Nursing, plans to share with his future patients. Salazar is vice president of the Nursing Student Council and president of Men in Nursing, an open charter campus organization that welcomes men to the nursing profession but is open to anyone. Salazar aims to grow the organization, which currently has 24 active members.
“My goal is also to go out into the community and show that men are just as strong as women,” he said. “We can also provide quality health care.”
Salazar is poised to enter a profession in which the representation of men has dramatically changed over time. Men’s representation in nursing was robust in the 1800s but had declined dramatically by the early 1900s, when many nursing schools admitted women only. The number of men in the nursing profession has steadily increased since the ’70s in the U.S. The enrollment of male students in UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing has climbed over the decades as well.
“I’d rather have a profession where even if I’m having a bad day, I can make someone else’s day a little bit better.”
— Christian Doll, MHA, RN, BSN, CPN
A welcome tour of duty
Nursing was not a career field Assistant Professor/ Clinical James Cleveland, PhD, MSN, RN, would have considered before the military identified it for him. Cleveland had enlisted in the U.S. Army after high school and separated to attend college to become a commissioned officer. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Nursing Corps and embarked on what he calls a “fully transformational tour of duty.” He retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2009 after 28 years of combined service.
“[Men have] been in nursing for a long time but our numbers have been low,” said Cleveland, faculty sponsor for the Men in Nursing organization.
“I support all in nursing,” said Cleveland, who recalls being one of five male students in a class of 150 when he earned his BSN in the late ’80s. “All these young folks are asking us to do is teach them how to take care of people. I believe my place in time is to be here for these groups.”
Job security, variety, flexibility
Assistant Professor/Clinical Kyle Ransom, PMHNP, a psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner with seven years in advanced practice nursing, believes that younger generations are more open-minded than older generations and are willing to take on roles that haven’t traditionally been associated with men. Nursing provides job security and emotional rewards, he said, as well as a variety of career paths.
“I think more men absolutely should consider nursing. There are so many leadership roles in nursing that I think a lot of men would find it appealing,” Ransom said. “A lot of boys grow up wanting to be police or firefighters. I think nurses should be in that category. I think more men would want to pursue this if they knew how versatile the nursing role can be.”
The profession provides the added benefit of belonging to a group committed to the shared purpose of caring for others.
“Within nursing, once you are here you feel part of the group — you are part of this body of people who are here to help others. There’s a sense of community and belonging that goes along with that that’s really cool,” said Ransom.
Nursing wasn’t something Christian Doll, MHA, RN, BSN, CPN, had considered until he had his practicum experience with the National Marrow Donor Registry while earning a Master of Health Administration. He was inspired by that experience and enrolled in the BSN program, graduating in 2011. He has spent his career in pediatrics, with a focus on oncology and bone marrow transplant.
“It was not on my radar whatsoever, but thankfully that changed,” said Doll, who was the first president of Men in Nursing. “There is a need, and it’s a great career for anybody. I’d rather have a profession where even if I’m having a bad day, I can make someone else’s day a little bit better.”
Nursing has given Doll the flexibility to spend more time with his family, even as he travels from his home in the Dallas area to his job on an acute care resource team at a children’s hospital in San Francisco, where he works one week on, one week off, averaging six to seven workdays every two weeks.
A career in compassion
“I always encourage students, both male and female, to volunteer at the clinics so they can see what marginalization does to people in the health care system,” said Associate Professor/Clinical Peter Guarnero, PhD, RN, MSc, director of nursing for the Pride Community Clinic. “I am always glad to see more men in the classroom because I feel they have something to offer not only to their classmates but also to the patient populations they choose to work with.”
Guarnero began his nursing career with an associate degree. He left the profession to attend seminary but eventually returned, inspired by nuns he had met who served as midwives in Mississippi. But while pursuing his BSN, he was told by his program’s dean that his goal of becoming a nurse midwife was an inappropriate choice for a male.
“That was when I chose to go into mental health,” he said.
“For me it’s been a struggle not seeing enough men in nursing. When I did my BSN, there were only two men in the class. In graduate school most of the class were all women. I think I was the only male in my PhD cohort,” he said.
Guarnero has seen the numbers of male nursing students increase during his time at UT Health San Antonio, and he encourages all who want to care for the most vulnerable to consider the profession.
“We do science; we care for people,” he said. “What’s important is that sense of compassion — that sense of wanting to give to other people so that they feel safe and feel they are being heard.”
To learn more about male nurses in history, visit uthscsa.edu/nursing/about/light-future/male-nurses.
Male nurses by the numbers
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2022, men made up about 12% of all registered nurses, 11.1% of licensed practical and vocational nurses and 11.2% of nurse practitioners.
Those figures show a growth trajectory since 1970, when only about 2.7% of registered nurses were men, based on U.S. Census Bureau data. By 2011, the percentage had climbed to 9.6%. Male representation across all levels of nursing has increased by 59% in the last decade, according to NurseJournal.
Men’s participation in the nursing profession varies across specialties. For instance, more than 40% of nurse anesthetists are men, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology.
UT Health San Antonio’s School of Nursing has consistently enrolled a higher percentage of males than are represented in the nursing workforce and has awarded an increasing percentage of degrees to men over the decades. For example, 10.7% of degrees conferred from 1971 to 1979 were awarded to men, compared to 19.7% from 2020 to 2022, according to the university’s Office of Institutional Research.