As our population ages and becomes more unhealthy, the need for nurses will be greater than ever. That is in part what's contributed to a rise in men seeking a nursing degree. No longer are male nurses seen as the punchline of a joke, or stereotyped in a certain way. At Aspirus Wausau Hospital, the words "male" and "nurse" are no longer mutually exclusive.
"I love working with people and I love talking with people," said Michael Drews, a nursing student at Northcentral Technical College. Like many others in the healthcare profession, Drews just wants to help others.
"It's a really rewarding job," he said. And it's a job that has changed a lot, even within the past two years since Drews started school.
"Each year, you see more and more male nurses working at the hospitals," Drews said.
Drews is one of 23 male students in the nursing program at NTC. They make up 10.5 percent of the total class, just above the 9.6 percent national average of male registered nurses.
"I've noticed that it's become more acceptable or common to have males in the classroom," said NTC instructor Kathy Maves. "It's like, it doesn't raise anybody's eyebrows anymore."
This recent trend is raising some eyebrows, but for different reasons. According to a recent study from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of male nurses has gone up around six percent since the 1970s, yet so has the amount they make compared to women. Even when variables like work hours and schedules are taken out of the equation, women nurses make anywhere from 93 percent to just 87 percent of what men make, depending on the job title. While the numbers are greater than the wage gap average among all occupations--women make 77 cents for ever $1 men make--it seems those barriers that women have always faced in the workplace persist, regardless if it is a female-dominated field.
But NTC instructors and students say the increase in the number of men pursuing RN degrees certainly benefits both the nursing field and society as a whole.
"It's not just a female tendency to want to help people," Drews said. "We're kind of getting away from those stereotypes."
"I think it gives more credibility that it doesn't matter whether you're male or female," Maves said. "It's a great field to get into."
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