Men at Work
UVA School of Nursing has been named a “Best School for Men in Nursing” by the American Association for Men in Nursing for 2023. The 16-year-old award—which recognizes the School’s “significant efforts in recruiting and retaining men in nursing, providing men a supportive educational environment, and in educating faculty, students, and the community about the contributions men have made and do make to the nursing profession”—was awarded to 13 nursing programs across the country.
“This award positions us as a model for gender diversity in nursing,” said Melissa Gomes (CERTI-PMHNP ’13) associate dean for diversity, equity, and inclusion, and an associate professor, and is “a recognition that will allow us to inspire a future generation of male nurses and solidify our presence as a destination for their education.”
We asked a few men in UVA’s programs how they chose nursing, what helps them face the twin challenges of study and work, and how their patient care is enhanced by their specific talents.
For many male students, watching another person in his life in a caregiving role allowed them to see their place in the female dominated field of nursing. “I had a male relative who was a registered nurse,” said Andrew Nguyen, a 4th year BSN student. “Seeing him work made me aware that I could do it, too.”
“Compassion is not limited to one gender.”Andrew Nguyen, MAN Club leader and BSN class of 2024
Francis Atangan, an RN to BSN student studying in Northern Virginia, has more than seven years of nursing practice under his belt. Atangan began his nursing education in the Philippines, where helping healthcare providers, both male and female, care for his grandparents introduced him to field. “I’m really glad the number of males in nursing is increasing,” he said of the growing numbers of men who are his colleagues. “There is a big need.”
But what motivates men to ultimately choose nursing is much the same across genders. Close patient contact and the chance to build relationships moved Jared Hart, a 4th year BSN student, to choose nursing. “All patient interactions confirm my choice to be a nurse,” he attested.
With a notoriously tough academic load added to the emotional experiences inherent to patient care, nursing students depend on each other’s support. Male nursing students in particular, though, lean on one another as they form a unique perspective on nursing school and its challenges.
22%proportion of faculty members who are male (2023)
That’s been true for Nguyen and Hart, who are classmates, roommates, and the president and vice president of the Men Advancing Nursing (MAN) club, a more than ten-year-old student group formed to support, affirm, and build community among male nurses and nursing students. MAN Club offers a way for male nursing students to get together both inside and show up outside the nursing school to promote awareness of men in nursing. Through that service, they normalize men in nursing roles by taking up space, being visible, and sharing their experiences.
Diversity and representation are essential to exceptional patient care, a truth Hart has found during nursing school. “Many patients in the hospital expect to have a female nurse,” even as many male patients appreciate having a same-gender nurse—a fact that often makes Hart a welcome surprise.
Research has shown that patients appreciate seeing themselves reflected in those who care for them. “I’ve had a male patient tell me how much better he felt since I was a male,” Hart said, who noted that for some patients, being able to share their intimate health concerns with a fellow man is a game-changer.
But Hart and Nguyen are quick to affirm that they don’t lead with their maleness, even if it’s often the first thing on others’ minds when they stride into class or a patient’s room. “Compassion,” said Nguyen, simply, “is not limited to one gender.”