HealthJune 01, 2016

Emotional intelligence in nurses: Male vs. female

Women outnumber men by about 10 to 1 in the nursing field, but The American Assembly of Men in Nursing (AAMN) is encouraging men to enroll in nursing school, with a goal of increasing male enrollment in nursing programs to 20% by 2020.

At one time, men were shunned from the profession altogether. Florence Nightingale, widely honored as the founder of modern nursing, purposefully excluded men from entering the vocation. She believed that nursing was a natural extension of the caring role of women and mothers. Nightingale didn't believe that men were capable of being nurses, and as a result men weren't admitted into nursing schools under her influence.

Today, male nurses play a valuable role in healthcare, bringing diversity, valuable skills and, unique perspectives to the nursing workforce.

Stereotyping men

While stereotyping exists in nearly every area of society, the days of dismissing men as compassionate nurses are hopefully coming to an end.

The view of nursing as an extension of women's domestic roles, and the accompanying prejudice about men's presumed limited emotional capabilities, prevailed long after Florence Nightingale's authority. For a long time, people viewed nursing as predominately a woman's occupation. Additionally, society at large continued to assume the superiority of women in matters of emotional caring.

Male nurses were, and often still are, frequently stereotyped as emotionally uncaring and, therefore, unsuitable to work as nurses. This stereotyping not only limits the entry of men into the profession, but also results in a challenge for male nursing students and professionals in practice.

What is emotional intelligence?

Emotional intelligence (EI), an important evolution in the traditional concept of care and compassion, has emerged over the last two decades. Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the emotions of others. It is generally said to include three skills:

  1. Emotional awareness, including the ability to identify your own emotions and those of others
  2. The ability to harness emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problems solving
  3. Ability to manage emotions, including the ability to regulate your own emotions, and the ability to cheer up or calm down another person.

Do women have higher EI than men?

The emotional abilities of male nurses are widely assumed to be inferior to those of their female colleagues. According to a recent issue of Nursing Management and research conducted by Estelle Codier, PhD, MSN, RN and Neil S. MacNaughton, PhD, RN, there is no statistical evidence for differences in EI scores between male and female nurses in the study. EI appears to be an innate ability that nurses of both genders possess.

Men enter the nursing profession for the same reasons as women: because they want to care for people who need help, because they are up for the challenges of the occupation, and because they appreciate the many job opportunities in the nursing world.

Explore related topics
Lippincott Solutions
Our best-in-class suite of evidence-based, institutional software can help you to balance clinical and business needs by streamlining workflow, standardizing care, and improving reimbursable patient outcomes.