Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Bartkowski, John

Committee Member

Cossman, Jeralynn

Committee Member

Hempel, Lynn

Committee Member

Jones, James

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access



Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work


This qualitative study explores male nurses’ negotiation of masculine gender identities in the nontraditional work of registered nursing. Few registered nurses in the United States are men, and men leave the profession within the first four years after graduation at twice the rate of women. This study builds on previous work by seeking to understand why male nursing graduates of an institution formerly for women only, made the decision to become nurses, how they decided to attend a women’s college over a more gender balanced campus experience, and in what ways they negotiate gender identities in the configuration of nursing practice careers. Though others have cautioned that active recruitment of men into nursing could be detrimental to women nurses’ careers, the current nursing shortage has changed the terrain in health care creating a structural need for both women and men. In contrast to previous studies, which focused on elucidating mechanisms in the workplace that encouraged men nurses’ rapid ascendancy in the profession, this study explores socialization processes encountered in both educational and workplace settings to gain understanding of the meaning these experiences hold for male nurses in the negotiation of masculinity in a predominantly women’s profession. By uncovering the salient meaning that socialization into the professional culture of nursing has for male nurses, an understanding can be gained of how best to recruit and retain men in the profession. Gender theory provides the lens with which structures of gendered educational and work relations among participants in this study were examined. Data were collected from thirty participants using multiple methods, and analyzed using an emergent themes approach. Participants identified themselves as competent, compassionate caregivers. Although relationships with female nursing colleagues were undergirded by horizontal reciprocity, tensions arose when male physicians communicated greater trust with male nurses. Interactions with nursing managers were regarded with caution. The male nurses in this study perceived that they were expected to respond with stoicism in crises, work excessive overtime, and were assigned the most complicated cases. They did not feel they could voice reservations about accepting complicated case assignments as did their female colleagues.