To Men in Nursing: Consider Your Privilege


I want to talk about men in nursing and privilege. I expect it will be a difficult, nuanced dialogue, but it’s an important one, and one particularly relevant to nursing, a profession so entwined with the ideals of egalitarianism, advocacy and feminism.

Before I begin, I want to clarify: I do not want to challenge the presence of men in our profession, their growth in numbers, their competency, or their intentions. I do want to challenge men in our profession to challenge themselves to analyze their privilege, and I want to challenge men in our profession who have already done this work to challenge others to do the same. Specifically, I want to challenge male nursing groups, particularly NYC Men in Nursing and the American Association of Men in Nursing, that provide networking and career opportunities for their mostly male members. Broadly, I want to challenge all male nurses who use their privilege, inadvertently or purposefully, to get higher positions and higher pay.

I identify as an intersectional feminist. Intersectionality is a term used by modern feminists to define the multiple identities that are subject to systems of oppression. An intersectional feminist holds that arguing against sexism is logically and ethically invalid if you do not also rally against racism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, queerphobia, ableism, ageism and religious discrimination in our society. Intersectional feminists work hard to examine their own identities of privilege (I, for example, am white, able-bodied, cisgendered and educated) and how they have benefitted us, and work to dismantle the systems that bolster that privilege. Intersectional feminists “call people in” instead of calling them out.

I often discuss experiences of discrimination in the workplace with other non-male identifying feminists, and through these conversations, I learned I am very lucky to be a nurse. Compared to tech or the restaurant service industry, for example, nursing is a feminist dreamland. Most men I have met in nursing have been respectful and compassionate. Disappointingly, however, only a few have demonstrated a deep understanding of the privilege they enjoy, both in our profession and society at large, due to their gender. Male nurses have great capacity to be intersectional feminists, but because they do not bear the brunt of gender inequality, it takes more work for them to recognize it than it does for women, and because it’s hard to say no to a leg up, it takes more self-sacrifice to shun its benefits.

As an intersectional feminist, I empathize with the position of men as a minority in an industry. They comprise only about 10% of nurses. Male nurses have historically been made fun of for being feminine (I’ve seen the movie Meet the Parents), which I’m sure can be hard for some men. Male-identifying nurses who are gay or queer suffer homophobia in the workplace. Our black male nurses come from identities that have higher rates of imprisonment, police brutality and death by homicide. Men are also more likely to be mistaken for doctors, according to one male classmate of mine, for whom I played my well-worn miniature violin. Seriously, though, I empathize with all of this and readily acknowledge that some identities men have (race, disability, sexuality) put them at higher risk for discrimination than some women. I even empathize with the doctor comment, but mostly just because I am proud to be a nurse. 

But we must remember, a minority population is not always a victimized one. Male nurses are more likely to hold advanced practice positions, and they earn more money than female nurses in comparable positions with comparable accreditation and experience. Men are less likely to be the recipient of sexual harassment from a patient or coworker. Men are less likely to be demeaned and ignored as professionals by MDs and other team members. Men are promoted faster and more often. Ultimately, the privilege men, particularly white men, still have within our profession is difficult to reconcile, and to me, despite my empathy, trumps their minority status.

As a student at NYU, the most active group at my school was Men Entering Nursing. Despite their good intentions, I could not shake my philosophical argument with the group. I keep coming back to one analogy:

Imagine that we had a student interest group for white students. Imagine that the group for white students became the most active group in the school. The group hosted events with all white presenters. The professor leading the group was friendly and available and helped you find jobs and study for tests. The group had a strong affiliation with the citywide white group, which provided excellent career guidance and networking opportunities. Of course, non-white students would be allowed as well, if they wanted to join the group and enjoy its networking and academic benefits. Some non-white students even sat on the e-board, but most avoided joining because they had enough on their plate trying to address non-white issues. To top it all off, one month after the election of Donald Trump, all the white students in the school (even if they weren’t Whites in Nursing members) were asked to gather after the last exam before graduation in their scrubs and take a group photo, and no one questioned it at all.

Even if white people only comprised 10% of the student and professional population, this would be inappropriate. I am a white person, and I would do everything I could to reduce this group’s influence at the university, or I would try to funnel the momentum of the group toward events and dialogue focused on privilege analysis. This is what I suggest men in nursing do in the future. 

This is my perspective, but I am open to others. I am open to being called wrong and being corrected. I am open to dialogue. Please share your ideas.

Jillian Primiano, RN, BSN, recently graduated from NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing, where as a student, she worked with the Hartford Institute of Geriatric Nursing to develop education for geriatric care providers and improve health outcomes for older adults. Before earning her nursing degree, she studied History and Journalism at Boston University with a focus on Cold War anti-war activism, feminism and the Civil Rights Movement. After her first stint in college, she spent three years teaching English, American Studies and International Relations at An Giang University in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta, where she learned about her privilege in ways she could never have imagined.

Calling All Critical Feminist Nurse Action Researchers!


Greetings from Nancy Murphy. I am on a quest to bring together Critical Feminist Nurse Action Researchers and others who are interested in Critically Focused Action Research and Health Care.  After attending the Action Research Network of the Americas (ARNA) Conference (its 4th) last year in Knoxville, TN and speaking with people in leadership, I decided to initiate and facilitate a Health Care – Action Research Community within ARNA.  Action Research Communities (ARCs) are ways for members to create small but active groups of people who want to share resources, strategies, practices and ideas around a specific topic.  They are established as the needs and interests of ARNA members evolve.

I have long been interested in action research and I am hoping the Health Care ARC will become a resource for nurses and others who are doing/who are interested in health care related critical participatory research.  Over the years, I have found it challenging to locate and network with nursing action researchers.   I attended the Critical and Feminist Perspectives in Nursing Conferences back in the ’90s & early ’00s and more recently the, In Sickness and in Health Conference, where I have had opportunities to meet with critical nursing scholars and researchers, some of whom are doing various kinds of action research.  However, there is an absence of a central resource in North America for Nursing/Health Care action researchers and I am hoping the ARNA Health Care ARC will serve to fill this void.

Since September 2016, I have slowly been contacting nursing  faculty at various universities who I know conduct critical participatory research or who may know others who are doing health care related action research, to see if they might be interested in learning more about the Health Care ARC.  It is slow going, but very rewarding to reach out and begin to make connections.  To date I have been in touch with about a dozen nursing researchers in the US and Canada, to share information about ARNA, the Health Care ARC, the upcoming ARNA conference and the exciting possibility of developing this ARC further.  Several folks have expressed great interest.

I will be heading for Cartagena, Columbia in June to the 5th ARNA conference “Democratization of Knowledge: New Convergences for Reconciliation.”  I am very much looking forward to this wonderful opportunity to meet new folks, connect with those I met last year, and make future plans.  I am hopeful that over time the Health Care ARC will bloom and will become a community of ideas, strategies and action to support social justice work and improve the health of all beings!  Will be back to report post conference and keep you updated on the ARNA Health Care ARC.  Please email me and be in touch if you would like to hear more.

Despair is not an option!


As the efforts to roll back the U.S. Affordable Care Act has progressed, what has emerged even further is the resistance from “we the people” – resistance that has, in no uncertain terms, changed the conversation. So even though we hear, every day, another jaw-dropping bit of news that threatens democracy world-wide, it is vitally important that we shift our gaze and energy to continuing whatever actions we can do to sustain our public voices. As Bernie Sanders stated in a recent interview with The Guardian

“This is what they [the people] should do,” he says, pumping out the Bern. “They should take a deep reflection about the history of this country, understand that absolutely these are very difficult and frightening times. But also understand that in moments of crisis, what has happened, time and time again, is that people have stood up and fought back. So despair is absolutely not an option.””  (source)

Our “Declaration of Solidarity and Resistance” continues to draw supporters – not only from nurses but from many others who join us in declaring the values that motivate our actions – actions that are not only important as acts of resistance to the current political trends to damage health and well-being, but actions to affirmatively promote and protect health and well-being for those we serve.  Our Declaration informs our deep reflection – reflection on the historical stand that nurses have taken for decades, and reflection on the political courage to step forward to act – to resist, and to build a future based on these values!

We welcome your stories, photos, videos – anything that you can share that shows what you are doing!  If you are sending a postcard to the White House on March 15th, send us a photo of your card!  If you are attending a rally, send us a photo or a video!  Write about your reflections, and ways that you are shifting away from despair!  We want to hear from YOU!

The Ethics of Nurses Being “Political”


A few weeks ago (I know, don’t tell me it feels like months!), when the 45’s “Muslim Ban” was in full swing, Pamela Cipriano, the current President of the American Nurses Association, issued a statement that reads as follows:

“Nursing is committed to both the welfare of the sick, injured, and vulnerable in society and to social justice. The ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements establishes the ethical standard for the profession in its fervent call for all nurses and nursing organizations to advocate for the protection of human rights and social justice.Therefore, ANA opposes any action that erodes the human rights of people, and strives to protect and preserve the rights of vulnerable groups such as the poor, homeless, elderly, mentally ill, prisoners, refugees, women, children, and socially stigmatized groups.This underlying principle must be considered in light of the current Administration’s efforts to halt refugee admissions for 120 days and block citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for 90 days.Any actions taken that are intended to increase the safety of our country must be clearly defined and not jeopardize human rights nor unfairly target religious groups.” (http://nursingworld.org/FunctionalMenuCategories/MediaResources/PressReleases/2017-NR/ANAPresidentResponds-ImmigrationEO.html).

Social Media Reaction 

I happened to read this on facebook, so of course I was very excited to see a nursing leader take a public stand. As I moved onto the comments section, I was concerned by what I saw, as it seems about 50% of the nurses commenting were concerned about the political nature of Dr. Cipriano’s statement, and comments were made that nurses should not be making political statements, that ANA should not be taking political stances, and that there is no room for politics in nursing.

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We still have a lot of work to do in educating nurses, both in the academic and professional settings. We need to ensure that nurses understand their ethical obligation to act as advocates for populations; and that this obligation extends beyond the bedside and workplace setting and out into the wider arena of politics.

Ethics and Political Action, Advocacy, and Activism

The Code of Ethics for Nurses With Interpretive Statements (American Nurses Association, 2015: http://nursingworld.org/DocumentVault/Ethics-1/Code-of-Ethics-for-Nurses.html) guides us in our nursing practice. In particular, nurses should be aware of the implications around the following provisions (emphasis added with italics):

  • Provision 7: The nurse in all roles and settings advances the profession through research and scholarly inquiry, professional standards development, and the generation of both nursing and health policy.
  • Provision 8: The nurse collaborates with other health professional and the public to protect human rights, promote health diplomacy, and reduce health disparities.
  • Provision 9: The profession of nursing, collectively through its professional organizations, must articulate nursing values, maintain the integrity of the profession, and integrate principles of social justice into nursing and health policy.

All nurses can access this document for free online at the above link, and I would recommend particular attention be paid to provision 9.3 (integrating social justice, p. 53) and 9.4 (social justice in nursing and health policy, pg. 53-54).

I particular like how the ANA code provides a context for nurses to realize that our work does not stop at the bedside; we care for and advocate for those who do not have a strong voice, those who need support in attaining the best pathways toward good health and healing, and we care for and advocate for populations and the planet.

In this sense, when we made aware of political issues like the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, it becomes clear that we are ethically obligated to take action to ensure that vulnerable populations do not lose access to their healthcare, and that we be part of the conversation as new processes and policies emerge via federal and/or state mandates regarding healthcare insurance. This area may seem obvious, but we are also ethically obligated to take action when we see the health of specific populations and the health of the planet at risk. Image result for picture nurse political

One example of this might be the “extreme vetting process”, which is targeting refugees from specific war torn areas such as Syria. The atrocity of human destruction in Syria and the need for refugee re-settlement is one that nurses should be concerned about; the damage that is done to human life and the degradation of the environment and the planet in Syria is a global concern, and a nursing concern. Nurses should therefore be fulfilling our ethical obligation by questioning the new extreme vetting process and supporting a call to assist Syrian refugees. A war torn vulnerable human population requires social justice action.

I am sure there will be more examples that require nurses to fulfill our ethical obligations in the forthcoming days and weeks as we look at this administration’s stances around the environment, healthcare, and even education (yes, our children are a vulnerable population away, one that needs a strong voice in support of the best educational practices).

So what can we as individual nurses do? 

Make an action plan around a singular or perhaps a few areas of political concern. Keep in mind, your actions do not need to be huge or time consuming; calling, emailing, or writing your representative on a regular basis can take just a few minutes of your time, and it can be of great impact. Don’t forget to mention you are a nurse, and always strive to share personal stories around your topic of choice. Align yourself with other like-minded nurses, and take steps to balance your work-family-advocacy-self-care efforts. Rejuvenate yourself, and find communities that you align with.

The reason why we became nurses may vary to some degree, but most of us felt a calling toward healing, toward caring, toward supporting people and populations in maximizing their health. And the world needs nurses right now to fulfill their ethical obligations in the political arena. Image result for picture nurse political