Unlike many other professional fields where women are the minority, men have traditionally been underrepresented in nursing, and while they are far from closing the gap, they are increasingly enrolling in nursing programs.

Data from the latest Health Resources and Services Administration’s Nursing Workforce Survey shows that in 1977, there were less than 30,000 men in the nursing workforce. By 2018, that number had risen to more than 300,000.

Organizations such as the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) are engaging in outreach efforts and partnering with nursing programs to form local chapters on college campuses. 

AAMN also bestows the annual Best Schools for Men in Nursing Award. To be recognized, schools must show intentional effort across a range of criteria, from marketing materials to course content. 

In 2022, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh College of Nursing (UWO Nursing) received the award for the fifth consecutive year. Though smaller than other schools that also appeared on the award list, it is strategic about putting its resources to good use, says Jason Mott, PhD, director of the pre-licensure program and an associate professor. Mott is also the current president of the AAMN Board of Directors.

“Even though we’re a smaller university that doesn’t have a lot of resources, we try to focus the resources we do have on helping diverse minority students,” he says.

The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing (Pitt Nursing) received the award for the first time last year. The school recognizes that enrolling men is important to ensure the workforce reflects U.S. demographics, so part of their recruitment efforts involve examining existing barriers, says Julius Kitutu, PhD, associate dean for student affairs and alumni relations, chief diversity officer, and associate professor. 

One of the biggest challenges is the long-held stereotype that nursing is less masculine than other health careers, says Kitutu. To counter such narratives, groups like the AAMN assert the importance of talking to young men firsthand about the benefits of a nursing career — such as a high salary, stability, and flexible schedules.

Outreach Efforts Help Dispel Misconceptions 

In addition to conducting outreach to pre-nursing students on campus and participating in volunteer activities in the community, the AAMN chapter at UWO Nursing also takes part in the association’s national Future RN campaign, which involves visiting middle and high schools in the surrounding area to talk with male students and promote nursing as a career option. Many of the schools have large populations of racially and ethnically underrepresented students, says Mott, which ties into UWO Nursing’s goal to increase diversity across the board.  

The efforts to engage men at UWO Nursing have been successful. In past years, the four-year program saw two or three men in a cohort, Mott says, but about 10 to 15 male students have enrolled in recent cohorts.

Male Faculty, Students Serve as Role Models and Recruiters

In addition to recruitment efforts for students, both Pitt Nursing and UWO Nursing focus on hiring male faculty and staff to serve as role models.

While UWO Nursing has a relatively small number of male professors — five out of 70 total — the school continues to make hiring diverse faculty a top priority.

Pitt Nursing currently has 16 men on faculty, comprising 18 percent of the total. 

Male faculty are critical to recruiting and retaining men, as they can serve as mentors and help with navigating stereotypes and other challenges that come with working in a profession predominantly comprised of women, says Mott.

Pitt Nursing brings currently enrolled male students into recruitment efforts by inviting them to present at conferences and meetings where prospective students participate.

Because of these efforts, the school has seen a jump in its undergraduate enrollment from about 9 percent men in 2000 to 11 percent in 2022. When combining both current undergraduate and graduate cohorts, the number increases to nearly 14 percent.

With schools like UWO Nursing and Pitt Nursing showing these strides, Mott is optimistic that the number of men entering the nursing profession will continue to improve. This is especially true given the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic uncertainties that have forced men to seek new careers in stable, well-paying fields like nursing, he says.

Intentional efforts around recruiting men will help alleviate the national nursing shortage as well as increase diversity in the profession, Mott says.

This article was published in our January/February 2023 issue.