Nursing Shortage Solutions: Medical Recruitment Companies are Looking for a Few Good Men
A growing nursing shortage in the United States is quickly becoming a crisis, with no end in sight. The shortage has challenged even the best healthcare recruitment companies and has recently come to the attention of the general public with the New York City nurse’s strike – 7,000 nurses walked out of two hospitals citing inadequate staffing levels. A low nurse to patient ratio leads to increased stress and burnout among nurses. But perhaps the most alarming statistics indicate higher mortality rates among patients. In 2018, the National Center for Biotechnology sponsored a study that suggested an additional death for every 100 patients, largely due to increased failure-to-rescue rates. These conditions create an environment in which nurses cannot effectively do their jobs, leading to increased stress, lower job satisfaction, and a cycle of nurse turnover that further exacerbates the shortage.
In the past few years, the rate of growth of qualified nurses has lagged behind the demand for health care services. According to a report from the American Nurses Association, there will be a nationwide shortage of 1 million nurses by 2025. This shortage has been worsened by the trauma of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic and the promise of higher-paying jobs as travel nurses.
The strike came as the demands for health care continue to increase. Hospital management claims that they are doing what they can given the lack of nurses. Despite this, nurses continue to describe how conditions at hospitals across the city have deteriorated as the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
Certainly, there is an urgent need for action to improve staffing levels and provide nurses with the support they need to do their jobs and keep patients safe. More funding and resources might be allocated to meet the demands and ease burdens, with some suggesting the federal government look into establishing minimum staffing ratios at all hospitals. But these efforts can hardly be effective if there are simply too few nurses to make them a reality. Recruitment attempts have yielded some results but not enough. According to physician recruiters, this may be the result of too narrow a field of candidates and a lack of focus on attracting new interest in the profession. 90% of new recruits and current licensed nurses are women. The answer, according to medical recruitment companies, is a targeted approach to attracting the other, untapped half of the population: men.
So why is nursing a predominantly female profession? The answer lies in a combination of historical and social factors. Nursing has traditionally been viewed as a nurturing, caring role that requires specific qualities such as compassion and empathy, which have historically been associated with femininity. This wide-spread impression of nursing, combined with the fact that nurses require intimate personal contact with patients, may have discouraged men from entering the profession.
In addition, nursing was largely seen as a low-skilled, low-paying job. Since women were once considered to be the “weaker sex,” they were more likely to accept lower wages and work in jobs that were deemed less important than those occupied by men. This allowed healthcare organizations to pay nurses comparatively less, which turned men away. As well, a lack of flexible work policies, such as part-time or night shifts, may discourage men from entering the profession.
Nursing was also primarily associated with religious institutions, many of which had strict gender role expectations. Nursing was seen as a vocation suitable for women, while more advanced medicine was left to men. This formed a split between the two professions, contributing to the misconception that still resonates today: that nursing is a less prestigious job than that of a physician.
But the problem isn’t all in the past. Today’s healthcare system leaves nurses behind. In a strange paradox, the prevalence of females in the nursing profession, coupled with persistent disparity in earnings and opportunities between the sexes has perpetuated the problem. Women are less likely to receive promotions or higher salaries because of gender biases and stereotypes.
The idea of recruiting more men to the nursing profession has been a frequent topic of discussion in recent years. Not everyone agrees on what may appeal to men, however and various theories have emerged.
One theory suggests that offering incentives could help to attract more men to the nursing profession. This could include offering higher pay, tuition assistance and mentorship programs. Such incentives would be attractive to potential male nurses, who might otherwise be discouraged by the gender disparity in the profession. Furthermore, if the incentives were successful in enticing men to become nurses, it could create a positive ripple effect, inspiring other men to consider entering the profession.
Another theory puts forth the idea of targeting male students in nursing school recruitment drives. Many nursing programs focus on attending women’s colleges and universities, as well as community colleges and vocational schools that cater to female students. However, by targeting more male-oriented schools with recruitment and advertising campaigns, nursing programs may be able to introduce men to the nursing profession at an earlier stage.
Third, some suggest that changing the public perception of the nursing profession could encourage more men to take up nursing. This could be accomplished through media campaigns that illustrate the rewards and excitement of being a nurse, rather than emphasizing traditional “female roles” in nursing. It could also involve creating more male-oriented healthcare facilities that focus on gender-specific needs, such as sports medicine or bariatric surgery.
Finally, one last theory proposes that increasing the visibility of male role models in the nursing profession could help to attract more men. This could involve highlighting successful male nurses in both traditional and non-traditional roles within the profession. Showcasing these individuals in marketing campaigns, conferences and professional development events could inspire other men to pursue careers in nursing.
The best healthcare recruitment companies look to the future of their resources, and with the dwindling supply of nurses emerging as a recruitment challenge, many are turning their attention to fostering professional development. Male nurses could bring a variety of benefits, including increased diversity, improved patient care and better patient outcomes.