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Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

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  • Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

    So I need somewhere to blow off some steam, and my friends at TG have always been kind enough to oblige and provide some feedback. I'm going to rant a bit here, but I'd like to open this up as a discussion to all fields and not just my profession. So heres the rant.

    First off, I apologize for not seeing a lot of you in game the last few weeks. I've been literally buried with work. There was a major upheaval with some of the staff at my hospital and those of us left in the aftermath had to double and sometimes triple down on shifts just to make sure it was covered. Put short, it's been hell.

    For those that dont know, I'm a nurse. Thats right, a male nurse.

    When I was an undergraduate, I knew going in that nursing was a female-dominated society. This harkens back to the age of male dominated sexism in medicine, where men were doctors and women were nurses. The sad thing is, that even though that age is long since over, the sexism remains, but in an opposite fashion. Men are the outcasts. I read in a recent nursing journal that 43% of female nurses believe that any man in nursing is there for one of three reasons:
    1.) He's a deviant.
    2.) He's gay.
    3.) He's a med school dropout who walked into nursing as a cop-out.
    I have a problem with all three of those. I'm not a deviant, I'm not gay and I never went to medical school. Of the three, the biggest is the third. I find it to be the pinnacle of hypocrisy. Nursing school was HARD, and thats no joke. All of these female nurses know it cause they went through it, and yet they feed sexism by not only practicing it themselves, but also belittling themselves by saying that a guy who couldnt hack medical school is somehow going to be able to come into "their" line of work and breeze through. Ridiculous.

    I find the sexist angle against men most prevalent amongst much older nurses who were around when it was abnormal to see a female doctor. That's fine. I get past that by telling myself that I'll still be taking care of people when they're needing a nurse of their own...in a home. Sure, its not nice to think, but oh well.

    Like I said, I got prepped for the crap that male nurses deal with back when i was in school. I was warned and prepared. No biggie. It never bothered me and still doesnt unless it gets in the way of me doing my job: caring for patients. I've had hundreds of people ask me if I'm gay. I've had gay guys openly hit on me when they find out I'm a nurse because they just assume. I dont care per se, it's just a mild annoyance.

    But it does come into play heavily in dealing with patients, as does the misconception that all male nurses are deviants.

    If I get a male patient, 9 times out of 10, he'll get all scared and tighten up when I walk into the room. Usually, I can have a little guy chat with him and assure him that not only am I straight, but my only goals are to do my job and get him out of the hospital and on his way in the quickest fashion possible. With guys, I dont mince words. I'm much more frank and straightforward and I find it tends to make them a bit more comfortable. Out of the 9 that show some homophobic reflex toward me, I'd say that 3 or 4 will still ask for a female nurse. No problem, thats their right. The rest generally relax and we wind up talking about football or some other nonsesne once they realize that I'm not going to be making passes at them.

    The other side of the coin is when I get female patients who assume the opposite: that not only am I straight, but the only reason I'm there is so that I can be a molester or peeping tom. They tighten up at about the same ratio as guys do, but they get a lot more frosty. They often ask for a chaperone to be in the room, which is their right and I happily oblige. Sometimes they'll refuse service from me just because I'm a guy. Again, fine. In extreme cases, I've been outright called a pervert as soon as I introduced myself (happened once last week in fact) and had a urine cup thrown at me.

    It's a lot harder to convince a woman who thinks you're a pervert that youre not than it is to convice a guy who thinks you're gay that youre not. But when you're getting the cold shoulder from men and women alike, it's a hell of a thing to deal with every day. Male nurses essentially have to become tapdance experts. I have to be able to be talking down a patient at the same time I'm doing my job as a nurse, otherwise it would take me 3x as long to treat every patient I attend to. It gets exhausting.

    At times all of these things do come to a head though and it pisses me off. We had a required "patient advocacy" seminar for the nursing staff recently. Come to find out that only the MALE nursing staff was required to attend. Basically, all the male nurses got hauled into a room by some bleeding heart shield beater who was berating us about our need to understand patients right to privacy. We were told that we need to have a heightened respect for that right. That some of the things we did, especially in trauma where I work, were causing "psychological trauma". Said things were issues such as restraining patients and stripping them down for trauma examinations in the ER. We were then told that as male nurses, we needed to be acutely aware that we are the direct cause of psychological trauma to women who have been sexually abused when they come into the hospital.

    How the hell the hospital administration felt the right to put us all in front of that firing squad, I'll never know. A grievance has been filed with the board of trustees.

    Anyway, at the end, there was a Q&A session. Ferris spoke loud and clear. I asked what exactly we were supposed to do with a disorderly patient in lieu of restraining him/her, to which I was told "thats not my problem" by the speaker. I asked why only the male nurses were required to attend and was told it was because we were the culprits of these psychological traumas and that the female staff had an "innate understanding" of the things we were being told. A long winded rant and lots of swearing ensued from yours truly, before I invited my colleagues to leave the room and invited the speaker to pleasantly take a fast car to hell. We all left.

    In trauma, if I need to strip you down in order to get to your wounds/illness/problem and save your life, I'm going to do so. If I need to restrain you because you're being abusive, I'm going to do so. To hell with your psychological trauma in that moment. The goal is to save and preserve life. I'm not going to worry myself about your dignity when you have a lacerated scalp or are suffering a stroke. If we started making that our priority, our mortality rate would skyrocket. Furthermore, how the hell am I supposed to have any knowledge of someone's abused past when they roll through the door? It's not like we have the ability to get medical histories in the blink of an eye. I do my job. If in the course of doing so I'm able to save the patient from any mental angusih in any way, I'll absolutely make any concession I can. But if it causes someone a bit of mental exasperation and it saves their life, I can live with that too. Thats just reality.

    But it illustrates what I'm talking about. In my profession, I work with a stigma. I'm discriminated against and I'm made a target. How the nursing community is still stuck here while the medical community has moved past it is beyond me, but there it is.

    So I put to you, my fellow TGers, the question: am I alone here? Do you guys see this in your respective professions in any way/shape/form? It doesnt necessarily have to be guys being the victims either. Let's hear it folks.

    If you've put up with me this far, thanks. I needed to vent a bit. Just keep in mind next time you're in a hospital: the guy wearing nurses scrubs might not be gay, he's not a sexual deviant, and all he wants to do is get you well. Thats all I ask.

  • #2
    Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

    I hope you filed a grievance with your Union! What they did was sexist and I think borders on an EEO violation. To pull only one group of individuals in and single them out is not ok, it divides the workforce and places a strain on one particular group. I bet you money that someone has their undies in a bunch and decided to file a complaint. I will even go as far as stating that I bet this "class" was a part of a settlement, or done to prevent a settlement. To even hint that someone violated HIPPA is a serious charge, and violations of said rule are usually easy to prove. It sounds as if your work environment has just got hostile and unwelcoming. Your Hospital administration has just divided its workforce into an "us" vs "them" battlefield. How many Male nurses are on staff in your ER?

    As to your other "frustration", it seems as if this stems from your run in with your special "class". I would chalk it up to a bad experience and move on. As you have stated you were already aware of the "stigma" of being a male nurse. These "stimas" exist in many fields not just nursing, male flight attendants, female firefighters, male teachers..etc etc etc. The "stima" has gotten so bad that I encourage you to see how many male doctors are still practicing Obstetrics. Plus if someone doesn't want you as their nurse, then they are losing out, not you. I am sure you are a more capable and caring nurse then most of your counterparts.

    Don't let it bother you Ferris as it will eat you alive. As to your grievance, just make sure you stay on top of it and be mindful of the time frame and dates. Good Luck and keep me posted.
    "Don't tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results." Gen. George Patton

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    • #3
      Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

      I never would have imagined that so there was still such bias in the medical field. I've had mostly female doctors since I was a child, and have seen plenty of male nurses and never thought anything of it...

      Interesting that the bias doesn't extend (that I've seen) into the EMT/Paramedic field... I guess 'cause that's a "manly" job, even though it's lower on the totem pole than nurse?

      Oh, and if I'm in the hospital and not dying, I'm going to be asking for a female nurse, too. Not because you might be gay, Ferris, but because I am not... ;)
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      • #4
        Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

        God damn it. I had a fairly large post typed up and lost it. Anyhow.

        I just got a job as a crit. care tech in an ICU as a precursor to nursing school. (Its just as fast now for me to finish my four year arts/sciences degree and then go to a 2 year nursing school as it is for me to transfer into a nursing school immediately.) I haven't seen any real bias against males yet, but I've also only been working for two weeks. Every nurse who's found out I want to go to nursing school has been generally supportive (teaching me things outside my technical scope, too) but many have also warned me about how it can be hard for males. Oddly, not one of the males has done so. So far, there have always been at least two male nurses per shift on our 48-bed ICU and I haven't heard anything from them on the subject of discrimination. The "guy talk" is a good strategy, but I'm afraid one that I can't particularly use. I don't watch football, baseball, racing, boxing, or any of the other stereotypical "male" topics of casual conversation, so I'm a bit out of luck there.

        edit: That "male nurses only" talk was absurd and they absolutely deserved that rant. Good on you for doing it. File a complaint with human resources; you're as entitled to anti-discrimination policies in the workplace as the female nurses are. "that the female staff had an "innate understanding" of the things we were being told" is patently absurd. No woman I've spoken to (and there are a lot, I interact with them a lot more comfortably than a lot of males) has any more of an innate understanding than a guy. Saying that either means that all women know what its like to be sexually abused or that males lack empathy. Either is horribly sexist.

        edit2: How in hell are you supposed to do your job without stripping them? When I was an EMT, every trauma patient with an applicable MoI was stripped on the spot, and now, every patient is stripped at least once a day for cleaning purposes. Its one of my major jobs as a CCT and I've never had any problems with patients from it, nor has it ever bothered me to do so.

        Originally posted by CingularDuality View Post
        Oh, and if I'm in the hospital and not dying, I'm going to be asking for a female nurse, too. Not because you might be gay, Ferris, but because I am not... ;)
        I never understood this. It might be how we treat them in the ICU, but its in no way titillating to be rolled up on your side and efficiently wiped down. It might be better for your dignity that its attractive women doing it, but other than that...
        I can ADS using more than a 2x without significant stutter! This was a good patch.

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        • #5
          Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

          In the ER I would want a male nurse because I feel that men are better at critical thinking. Maybe not in all situations, but I feel my odds are better with a man. Sexist maybe, but that's the way I feel. Same with anesthesia, EMTs and ICU. If I was up on a floor and needed a foley catheter put in. I would want a women. It would be traumatic if anyone did it, but less traumatic if it were a women. Anything to do with privates in a NON-critical setting. I want a women. Maybe I'm the pervert.

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          • #6
            Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

            The male nurse stigma is patently real. A standard test of a societal stereotype is if you can make a joke about it. For anyone who's seen 'Meet the Parents,' this passes the test.

            You are undoubtedly experiencing a stigma in your work environment, and have every right to be frustrated by it. As bad as it seems, at least you aren't living with a stigma in daily life as so many people in this world do. Your rant actually does a very good job of communicating how frustrating it is to have to live or work under this kind of burden, and how over time it can infect you to the point of projecting the frustration on others who may not have otherwise been implicated. This is very similar to racial stigma in this country. People who have the privilege of living without stigma (such as 'white privilege') as well as people who do should try and truly understand it.

            I believe you have a grievance with your employers in how they handled the patient advocacy training if it was carried out in the way you described. There is no justifiable reason to single out a specific group of staff, as if to say that the female staff did not need the training. It's hard enough for you to cope with the sterotypes forced on you by society. Your employer should be working to help you with that, not berate you for it. If they fail to hear your complaints, I suggest you try and find a different employer and possibly a lawyer.

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            • #7
              Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

              Originally posted by Hambergler View Post
              In the ER I would want a male nurse because I feel that men are better at critical thinking. Maybe not in all situations, but I feel my odds are better with a man. Sexist maybe, but that's the way I feel. Same with anesthesia, EMTs and ICU. If I was up on a floor and needed a foley catheter put in. I would want a women. It would be traumatic if anyone did it, but less traumatic if it were a women. Anything to do with privates in a NON-critical setting. I want a women. Maybe I'm the pervert.
              Yeah, that's weird and pretty much offensive to everyone involved. :/

              For the record, catheterizing people doesn't bother me one whit.

              edit: I suppose I have experienced the stigma, in some way. Most people, on finding out I want to be a nurse, ask me if its because I get to work closely with attractive women all the time.
              I can ADS using more than a 2x without significant stutter! This was a good patch.

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              • #8
                Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                Thanks for all the input so far guys. I definitely already filed a grievance with the trustees and had a very long chat with the chief of nursing about it. I was told that when the seminar was scheduled, it was made clear to the chief of nursing that there would be separate, simultaneous seminars for the male and female nursing staff, which is still pretty baseless considering we're all adults in the medical profession. After letting my boss in on it, she went to her boss, who is "this ancient little woman who has it out for any man in medicine" apparently (thats a direct quote from my boss). From my understanding of the situation, she's about a hair's breadth away from being canned by the board, so this might just be the straw that breaks the camels back. At least I'm hoping it is. Ostracizing the male staff just isnt right.

                Raz, I wish you the best of luck should you choose to pursue nursing as a career. If you need any help, let me know. As far as "guy talk" to mellow patients out, it doent have to be sports. I've discussed everything from video games (yes, TG has been mentioned lots of times) to barbecue with patients. It just depends on what you can use as visual cues. You get a guy who comes in wearing a shirt with a nintendo controller on it, chances are that you've got a decent icebreaker. As far as the bias goes, you'll see it more in other places than the ICU/ER, simply because half the time, the patients in those two areas are in la-la land and could care less who is working on them.

                Cing, I cant say as I blame you for wanting a female nurse. But be careful what you wish for, because not all female nurses have that hourglass figure and giganto-rack. Matter of fact, we have a nurse up on one of the med/surg floors who weighs close to 300 lbs. So be sure to take a survey of the land before making that call :D

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                • #9
                  Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                  Fortunately, I'm not looking for places beyond MedSurg, ICU, ER, OR, and maybe the cath lab. Floor nursing doesn't appeal to me that much. We'll see. I've got to actually get that BSN first. ;)
                  I can ADS using more than a 2x without significant stutter! This was a good patch.

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                  • #10
                    Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                    You have every right to be upset, Ferris. You work in a blatantly sexist field and are getting flack from all sides. The scary part is that when some "traumatized" and previously sexually abused woman comes through those doors without your knowledge, you might have a potential lawsuit on your hands. People like to sue hospitals and medical workers for everything in our bleeding-heart wussy society. People sue all the time for mental anguish. My mom is also an RN and this has been a very real concern of hers for a very long time. My hat goes off to you, Ferris. You are a VERY brave man for dealing with this garbage on a daily basis. I, personally, couldn't deal with it.
                    "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

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                    • #11
                      Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                      Originally posted by Ferris Bueller View Post
                      Cing, I cant say as I blame you for wanting a female nurse. But be careful what you wish for, because not all female nurses have that hourglass figure and giganto-rack. Matter of fact, we have a nurse up on one of the med/surg floors who weighs close to 300 lbs. So be sure to take a survey of the land before making that call :D
                      I'm willing to roll the dice. There are grotesque exceptions, but, in general, the ugliest of women are still more pleasing to my eyes than any guy... My preference assumes, of course, that all nurses' skill is equal, or at least unrelated to sex. Assuming that my care will be the same with a dude or a chick, I'd rather interact with the lady. And I'm like Raz, in the sense that I don't do "guy stuff" with the exception of video games and guns, so I tend to get along better with women.
                      Become a supporting member!
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                      • #12
                        Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                        Originally posted by Razcsak View Post
                        Yeah, that's weird and pretty much offensive to everyone involved. :/
                        Why is what I said offensive? I work in the operating room and have spent years in hospitals and ERs. I have first hand experience. Just because there is a job available doesn't mean men and women are equally as good at it just because its the PC way to look at it. Men do what they do best and women do what they do best. They are not equal.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                          Addressing two points:
                          Cing: I agree. There is no correlation of skill to gender. My main problem with the whole situation regarding male patients is that they automatically give the homophobic reaction, and in most cases, act like they're being punished as soon as a male nurse walks into the room. Funny, guys have a problem if i have to shave their stomach for an operation, but the male surgeon who comes in and is actually pawing all over them pre-op isnt anything bad. But I agree with you. I too would rather have female nurses attend to me, especially with the likes of my ex running around in the nursing world (she may be a cast iron bitch, but she's still hot).

                          Hambergler: What you said could be construed as being sexist, and therefore offensive. You indicated preference to male attendants (as to any medical treatment not involving your genitals) based on the fact that you feel they're more competent. That gives a very sexist impression. From my experience, there is no gender bias. I have seen completely incompetent male nurses as frequently as i've seen completely incompetent female nurses. Same with doctors, EMTs, technicians, orderlies, etc. However, opposing a viewpoint of yours, a male nurse might actually be more sympathetic and easy to work with as far as a performing a cath goes, simply because he too has a penis and can understand the pain involved. It's like watching another guy get kicked in the nuts, you can sympathise and react appropriately. Thats not to say that it's not gentler on the mind to have a woman performing it, but the association isnt there.

                          Every story has multiple angles of perception.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                            To your question.

                            You would think that there is a stigma against women in my field of software development. There are so few women doing it.

                            But I don't think there is. The few women I have worked with I never saw the guys reject them unless they where clueless. And some of the more popular personalities in the development community are women. We like competency more than anything else I think.

                            Personally I would want a male nurse during an emergency and a female nurse for the care afterward. And that is, I admit, completely based on stereotypical thinking. But really I hate all medical care. Makes me feel way to vulnerable. Overcoming that feeling and my prejudices is just way to much work when I am sick.

                            So I would actually prefer some really good drugs that allows me to ignore everything.
                            Iím not racists, I have republican friends. Radio show host.
                            - "The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity". -Jacob Burkhardt
                            - "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" - Emerson
                            - "People should not be afraid of it's government, government should be afraid of it's People." - Line from V for Vendetta
                            - If software were as unreliable as economic theory, there wouldn't be a plane made of anything other than paper that could get off the ground. Jim Fawcette
                            - "Let me now state what seems to me the decisive objection to any conservatism which deserves to be called such. It is that by its very nature it cannot offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving." -Friedrich Hayek
                            - "Don't waist your time on me your already the voice inside my head." Blink 182 to my wife

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                            • #15
                              Re: Sexism, Stigma and Homophobia - A Nurse's Tale

                              Gringo, I have to agree with your last few statements. It's 10x worse for medical professionals, for the simple reason that we're exposed to illness and injury so much that having to go to the hospital for our own care is like torture. We're always second guessing everything and worrying about every little action. I've annoyed more than a few nurses whom I felt to be less than competent at the time by placing my own IVs. I felt I was justified as it took more than three tries to get a good stick. If you saw my veins, you'd understand. My friends call me the human dartboard because my veins are so pronounced that you could throw a needle from across the room and get a good stick.

                              Imagine it this way as a reference to the computer science field: your computer breaks, but even though you're a computer professional, you are required to have someone else diagnose and repair the problem while you're forced to sit there and watch. Thats exactly what it's like.

                              This is why drugs are a good thing.

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