Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

WHY Women and Men Choose Nursing

Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

WHY Women and Men Choose Nursing

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to compare and contrast why women and men choose nursing. Male and female nursing students enrolled in a baccalaureate nursing program at every class level were interviewed over a two-year period. The interviews enabled the subjects to give voice to their motivations, needs, and expectations. Data were obtained and analyzed using grounded theory methodology. The analyses, performed both by the author and by a second intercoder, included constant comparison with substantive and categorical coding for the purpose of theory generation. While male and female students demonstrated comparable commitment to care for their patients, differences emerged within the construct of power. In addition, there was a strong contrast between male and female students regarding practical motivations for choosing nursing (e.g., salary and working conditions).

THE LONG-ANTICIPATED NURSING SHORTAGE is looming on the health care horizon. By now, everyone in nursing knows why: There is an increasing demand for the professional talent only registered nurses can provide, and there is a decreasing supply of these experts in the pipeline. To alleviate this imbalance, more women and more men must choose nursing as a profession. For nursing education and the health care industry to respond to the current enrollment crisis and the concomitant predicted shortage of nurses, it is imperative that the motivations, needs, and expectations of the young women and men already attracted to the profession be understood.

Although women and men today enjoy more freedom in making career decisions than in previous eras, the sexes are still largely concentrated in gender-specific professions (1-3). However, both women and men do choose fields traditionally dominated by the other gender. Nursing is a case in point. Research studies that examined why men choose nursing (4) and why women choose nursing (5) have found areas of congruence and marked dissimilarity between the genders regarding choice of profession.

The purpose of the current study was to revisit data gathered in the mid-1990s from two previous studies to compare and contrast why women and men selected nursing. The original studies employed a grounded theory approach (6) emphasizing emergence versus forcing of the data. The narrative responses from both groups of students speak vividly to the question of why women and men choose nursing.

Literature Review Past research on why women and men select nursing as a career reveals similarities as well as differences. Okrainec (7) examined student characteristics, specifically caring attitudes, and found few significant differences between male and female nursing students. In a phenomenological study exploring male nursing students' perceptions of their clinical experiences, Streubert (8) found a strong impetus for caring in males, who valued the privilege of caring for people.

Other researchers have highlighted significant differences between male and female nurses in pursuit of power for self. Skevington and Dawkes (9) discovered that men desired job promotion significantly more than women did. Dassen, Nijhuis, and Philipsen (10) found that more men than women aspired to become head nurses. Men in nursing interviewed from 1985 to 1991 were found to be concentrated in positions of higher salary, more prestige, and higher authority than were women within the profession (11).

The pattern whereby females fail to identify practical matters, such as finances, as indicators for choosing an occupation is found in females from the high school level (12,13) through the general college population (14). Women's seeming lack of interest in practical motivations (e.g., salary and working conditions) may be grounded in a long history of financial inequities related to career choice. Historically, occupations dominated by women have lower median annual earnings (15,16).

This issue has been especially relevant to nursing. …

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