February 24, 2020

Men in Nursing: Gender and Like-mindedness Are Both Important in Nursing Professional Relationships

Recently, I’ve written about the search for camaraderie among men in nursing. First, I mentioned the theme of isolation in men’s experience of the profession. Last week, I discussed the relative predictability for men of male-to-male professional interactions in nursing.

In light of those two concepts, I questioned whether or not simply increasing the proportion of men in nursing would be sufficient to address the real needs of the nursing profession and of patients and society generally. There is more to the lived experience of men in nursing than the relative lack of physical presence of other men in the workplace.

What could men need or want that would surpass the benefits of increased gender diversity in nursing? A reasonable starting point would be to consider what anyone would want from interactions with other people. Specifically, each of us naturally prefers interaction with others of like thought and practice. We look for similarity of lifestyle as well as ideas and modes of discourse. From such common features, we influence and are influenced to maintain our current ways of life. So, I suspect what we all look for most is like-mindedness among our fellow nurses.

In reality, there are nurses I’d prefer not to encounter professionally. Rest assured, there are few such people out there, but their presence in the workplace is a fact of life. Another fact of life is that some of them are men, others women. It’s also true that their gender is not the determining factor in my preference for interaction with some nurses over others.

In attempting to increase gender diversity in nursing, it’s possible to fall into the trap of oversimplifying the gender element so that we expect men to prefer professional interaction with men and women to prefer professional interaction with women. When I wrote of the predictability for men of male-to-male professional interactions, I didn’t intend to state a preference for male nurses as colleagues.

For me, there is also predictability in my interactions with certain other nurses who happen to be female. This is because I see them as like-minded colleagues. The ease of adaptability in professional interactions I experience with men in nursing because of the shared aspects of our psychology is mirrored by a similar ease of adaptability with female nurses who seem to be of like mind.

Of what does this like-mindedness consist? Personally, I tend to seek out similarities in such things as nursing philosophy, disposition toward patients and colleagues, and readiness to foster an environment of mutual respect and benefit.

Last week, I asked whether or not it is possible that the nature of nurse-to-nurse interactions in general would change significantly if men were to achieve parity with women in the nursing workforce. At present, I suspect there may be some gender-based affinity between men in nursing because of their minority status in the field. The significance of this affinity may be exaggerated by the current lack of gender diversity in nursing.

I noted previously that some of the predictability of male-to-male professional interactions may be the result of the contrast between men as a small minority and women as a large majority. Like-mindedness between nurses lends itself to predictability as well on a different basis, and a case could be made that, for any given nurse, there are relatively few others of like mind on a deep level.

Have you as a nurse experienced the camaraderie of like-mindedness with your colleagues? How do you personally define like-mindedness? What do you look for in like-minded individuals?

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