Male nurses, at any given point in their interaction with patients, family, colleagues, and strangers, have most likely answered many mundane and sometimes sublime questions about “How did you get into nursing?”, What it is like being a male nurse?”, and “Are you going to study medicine?” among others. It is likely that most of us would give a humdrum reply to these prosaic questions. In the literature, however, the lived experiences of male nurses and their perspective on nursing care are rarely explored. We often hear about the economic incentives for choosing nursing, and the barriers preventing the pursuit of nursing among men, not their life stories.
In 2014, the New York City Men in Nursing, a chapter of the American Association of Men in Nursing (AAMN), started a monthly initiative to feature a member of the group on its website. The intent was to share the narratives of men in nursing. Reading the individual stories of some of today’s men in nursing, I can somehow distill the essence of caring, of nursing, and of our collective identity as nurses. Here are excerpts of the reflections of some of the accomplished nurses (pseudonyms used) joyously making an impact at the bedside and beyond:
These testimonials most likely echo the equally rich experiences of female and non-binary nurses. What makes them meaningful is in the writing and reading of these narratives. Within us is a vast repository of narratives of lives shared with our patients, loved ones, coworkers, and friends – waiting to be told. There is a resurgence of emphasis on the value of the patient’s story. As providers, we are expected to have the narrative competence to make sense of our patients’ stories, and to cultivate empathy. Let us also consider our own stories, not because we want to be in the starring role, but to gain a deeper character study of one of the most coveted and demanding role in healthcare – the nurse. So, gentle nurses, go out there and tell your story.
Fidelindo Lim is a clinical associate professor at New York University – Rory Meyers College of Nursing.