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The History of Nursing


Historically, both men and women, usually members of religious orders, provided nursing care to the sick and dying. But as nursing education improved, it was offered predominantly to women. Nursing is the fastest-growing occupation in the United States. Nurses make up the majority of the healthcare industry, and that number’s going up, with 581,500 more nursing jobs by 2018. Why? There are a lot of reasons. Including an aging population and a shrinking nursing workforce, and Younique Scrubs is here to provide quality custom fit scrubs for the growing demand.

The percentage of male nurses dipped to its lowest point in the United States in the 1930's and 1940's, falling to about 1%, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Data from the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in 2009, indicated that approximately 5.8% of nurses in the United States are men.

Now, in the United States and around the world, women dominate nursing. But more men are entering the field, particularly as a result of a troubled economy and the well-publicized shortage of nurses in the United States Men are being welcomed, encouraged, and supported to pursue nursing like never before. Nursing schools and hospitals are actively recruiting men through marketing campaigns, increased media attention, and social media outreach:

The American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) is encouraging men to enroll in nursing school, with a goal of increasing male enrollment in nursing programs to 20% by 2020. Recruiters for schools and hospitals are placing targeted ads in publications and on websites that see more male users.The Oregon Center for Nursing undertook a recruitment campaign in 2002 titled, “Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse?” which has recently been the focus of new attention.

Gradually, the image of nursing as a women-only profession, is changing. Efforts like these are helping fill the continuing demand for trained nurses in the United States.

Men have always played a big role in nursing, going all the way back to the first nursing school, in 250 BC, in India. From 250 BC until the early 1900's, men dominated the field of nursing. In fact, until at least the mid-1800's, women were not allowed to be nurses. During the United States’ Civil War, both sides had men serving as frontline nurses, while female nurses were restricted to general hospitals. Even as women began training as nurses, the military largely used men for their nurse force.

After 1901, the military nursing corps was reorganized, and men were no longer allowed to serve as nurses. This contributed to the general feminization of nurses. It was not until after 1955 that men were permitted to serve as military nurses again. In 1971, the American Assembly for Men In Nursing (previously known as National Male Nurse Association) was founded to promote men in nursing. Below are a few widely known male figures in the Nursing world.

St. Camillus De Lellis (1550-1614): The year that Juan Ciduad died, St. Camillus De Lellis was born. He initially began his foray into life as a soldier who was afflicted with excessive gambling and an aggressive nature. He later returned to a hospital that previously dismiss him and eventually became director of the facility. He then founded a religious order and became the University Patron of the sick, hospitals, and nurses. It is thought the he possessed the gifts of healing and prophecy, although he remained sick most of his life from a non-healing leg wound. With his Order of Clerks Regular Minister to the Sick, they assisted soldiers on the battlefield and devoted themselves to plague victims and alcoholics. St. Cammillus used the sign of the red cross, which is still to this day used. St. Cammillus also developed the first ambulance service, and what is now known as the first home hospice.

Walt Whitman (1819-1892): Although more recognized as a writer and poet, Whitman is, perhaps, the most noted male nurse in modern history. He spent a better part of his time during the American Civil War as a volunteer nurse after his brother was wounded. During these hospital years, Whitman was known to be constantly scribbling in little notebooks made of pieced together scraps of paper. These now prized notebooks are filled with bits of poetry, addresses of friends, and notes concerning the need of the wounded soldiers. Whitman immortalized his nursing work in his poem, “The Wound Dresser.”

Joe Hogan (late twentieth century): An African-American associate-degree nurse, Hogan applied for admission to earn his bachelor’s degree in nursing at Mississippi University for Women in Columbus in 1979. Although other schools offered associate-to-bachelor’s degree programs, none were available in the local area other than MUW. Mr. Hogan was denied admission based solely upon his gender. He sued for violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, but the State argued that it had a tradition and a legitimate interest in providing educational opportunities for women in sex-segregated programs. Justice Sarah Day O’Conner found the State’s argument unpersuasive in the appeal, and today publicly funded schools of nursing cannot bar men from admission. In 2008, university President Limbert announced that MUW would remove “women” from the university’s name. Hogan was last heard from sometime in 2005 before Hurricane Katrina. He was working as a surgical anesthesiologist in New Orleans, according to his former attorney.

Nursing is a rewarding and challenging career for people of either gender. Nurses also enjoy opportunities to move up the ladder into management, transition into educating future nurses or to specialize their practice, by augmenting their skills and knowledge with advanced education.

Men enter the nursing profession for the same reasons as women: they want to care for people who need help, they like the complexity of the occupation, and they appreciate nursing’s job security and the possibility of earning a good income. As the numbers of men entering the nursing field continue to rise, we can look forward to the day when “male nurse” is a long-forgotten term.

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