What if people used your gender to describe your professional title? He was a male construction worker. She was a female hair stylist. He was a male grocery clerk. She was a female writer. It seems unnecessary, right? The need to use gender as an adjective to describe someone’s position in their career, in itself, reveals the lack of gender diversity and inclusion in certain professions, Frank Poliafico pointed out to me during an interview in early April. He would know. For years he battled the stigma of being a man in nursing, and after 50 years of working as a nurse he still strives to educate people on gender diversity in medicine and to answer the question, why do we need more men in nursing?
Why Do We Need More Men in Nursing? A Conversation with Frank Poliafico
Frank enrolled in nursing school in the late 60s. At that time, only one percent of nurses in the country were men. Although the feminist movement was blossoming, there was at least one area where gender diversity tilted in favor of females – nursing. At this time, men in nursing were a rarity. Some were rejected from nursing schools. Others were accused of being homosexuals. A few pushed past genderism. “It was a battle, for many of us at the time, to make it in an all-female world,” Frank said.
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In my exclusive interview, Frank stressed that he doesn’t use the term “male nurse.”
“We sort of put gender names on something when we want to accent the negative,” Frank explained. “I’m a nurse, and my nursing degree says ‘nursing.’ It doesn’t say ‘man in nursing.’ My profession is not driven by my gender.”
Frank went on to explain that people would say things like, “why do we need more men in nursing? To do the heavy lifting!” To those people, he would point out that this is just as discriminatory as saying women make better nurses because they’re good looking.
“People didn’t think of that – that we weren’t just for our muscles… that we also had other attributes, and most importantly, that we brought gender balance to the profession,” Frank said. “One of the things that I lecture about is not why we need more men in nursing but why we need more gender balance. Because men and women together can accomplish things that by ourselves we don’t – because we’re different!”
Frank contributed greatly to the medical field during his 50 years as a nurse. He worked in emergency care, first in the hospital and then outside the hospital in EMS. He helped reform policies and procedures, formed groups and advocated for many changes that helped to improve patient care. Now that he is retired, he’s had to step back from many of his obligations throughout the industry. However, gender balance and equality is still a topic he holds dear to his heart. He shared with me that today an estimated 11 percent of people in the nursing field are men. Although statistics show that the scale has tipped slightly since Frank first started his career, the industry as a whole still has a long way to go before it achieves gender balance.
Why Do We Need More Men in Nursing? Listen Below!
Listen to the video below to hear more about Frank’s experience working as a nurse in the early years, his thoughts on gender diversity in the profession and ultimately his reasons why we need more men in nursing.
Why do we need more men in nursing? If you have a story or thoughts to share, please chime in by commenting below!