- According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data from 2023, men represent almost 13% of all licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, and nurse practitioners.
- The percentage of nurses who are men is highest among certified registered nurse anesthetists.
- The American Association of Colleges of Nursing and nursing programs are expanding their recruitment efforts to men and other groups that have been historically underrepresented in nursing to fill the staffing shortages.
Nurses at all levels are in demand due to retiring nurses, primary care provider and nursing shortages, and high rates of nurse burnout. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) wants nursing programs to use more diverse recruitment strategies to recruit underrepresented groups in nursing to fill some of these gaps, such as men.
Men have been increasingly choosing nursing as their profession over the last 20 years. Find out about the growth of male nurses and the role they play in filling staffing shortages and creating a more representative workforce.
Male Representation in Nursing
The number of male nurses continues to grow at all levels of nursing, but nursing still has a long way to go to overcome the stigma labeling nursing as “women’s work.” However, in the last 20 years, the percentage of nurses who identify as men has grown by more than 7%.
Men in Nursing by License Type
The percentage of nurses who identify as men has increased over the last 20 years, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
BLS data on the number of registered nurses (RNs), licensed practical nurses (LPNs), and nurse practitioners (NPs) shows that the percentage of nurses holding these licenses who are men has grown. In 2002, just over 5% of RNs, LPNs, and NPs were men. Twenty years later, the percentage of male nurses is a little less than 13%.
Limited data existed on men in other nursing roles such as certified nursing assistant, certified nurse midwife, and clinical nurse specialist because BLS does not track these roles by sex.
Male LPNs, Male RNs and Total Male Nurses
Note: Effective with January 2011 data, occupations reflect the introduction of the 2010 Census occupational classification system into the Current Population Survey, or household survey. This classification system is derived from the 2010 Standard Occupational Classification (SOC). No historical data have been revised. Data for 2011 are not strictly comparable with earlier years.
The Increase of Male Nurses From 2011-2022
Within the last 12 years, the percentage of RNs, NPs, and LPNs who are men has increased from 9% to a little less than 13%. Yet, the growth has been slow and inconsistent. For example, in years such as 2011, 2016, and 2019, men made up fewer of the nursing staff than they did the previous year. However, years such as 2013, 2018, and 2020 gained anywhere from 32,000 to more than 61,000 male RNs, NPs, and LPNs.
The total number of male nurses increased from just over 294,030 to more than 509,210. Compared to LPNs and NPs, registered nurses have the most men. Nurse practitioners have the fewest men when compared to LPNs and RNs.
The table begins with data from 2011 because of the changes in occupation classifications in the 2010 census that affected all future years.
This data does not account for transgender and nonbinary individuals because BLS only tracks the percentage of women in industries since most industries are male dominated. This data was created by subtracting the percentage of female nurses from the total.
BLS did not start tracking NPs as a unique occupation category until 2011 because of the changes in occupation classifications in the 2010 census that affected all future years. Before 2011, NPs were classified as RNs.
The chart contains earlier data because the upward trend continued despite the change in data collection methods.
Men as Advanced Practice Providers
BLS only started collecting data on the percentage of advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) by sex in 2011. Before then, APRNs were listed as part of the RN data.
Additionally, few nurses become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and certified nurse midwives (CNMs), so BLS did not break those specialties down by sex. According to the most recent data on CNMs from the Health Resources and Services Administration’s Nursing Workforce Survey in 2018, only 1% are men.
However, even the limited data on APRNs shows a growth trend for men becoming APRNs in the last 12 years. The number of nurse practitioners that are men has grown from 9,400 to more than 29,710 between 2002 and 2022.
Most male nurses are CRNAs. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) in 2022, men make up 40% of CRNAs compared to just under 13% of total LPNs, RNs, and NPs.
Male Representation by Nursing Degree
Men make up more of the currently enrolled students in bachelor’s, master’s, doctor of nursing practice (DNP), and doctor of philosophy (Ph.D.) in nursing programs than the people who currently hold each degree. This trend shows the recruitment strategies may be working. Men are also slightly more likely to hold an associate degree in nursing (ADN) than a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree. Only about 13% of BSN students enrolled in the 2021-22 academic year were men, despite most employers preferring or requiring BSN-prepared nurses.
The percentage of associate and bachelor’s degree-holders who are men changed less than 2% between the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey and the 2018 Health Resources and Services Administration’s Nursing Workforce Survey.
DNP degrees are most popular among male nurses currently enrolled in nursing school and who have already completed their highest degree. This may be because 40% of CRNAs are men, according to the AANA, and CRNAs need a DNP to practice.
The Role of Men in a Diverse Nursing Workforce to Combat the Nursing Shortage
The AACN wants to recruit more men, along with other groups that have been underrepresented in nursing, as part of their diverse nursing recruitment strategy. Nursing has historically been an industry of mostly white women.
According to the AACN, “Though nursing schools have made strides in recruiting and graduating nurses that reflect the patient population, more must be done before equal representation is realized.”
However, the AACN and nursing programs are rethinking who they recruit into nursing. BLS projects 203,000 openings for RNs each year from 2021-2031 and a 46% projected increase of NPs between 2021-2031. Nursing schools know they need to recruit a more diverse workforce to help combat the nursing shortage.
More male nurses are part of that strategy. More than 215,000 men have joined the nursing field as LPNs, RNs, and NPs between 2002 and 2022, according to BLS. However, male nurses have not increased in number consistently since 2002.
These efforts have been inconsistent depending on the degree, license, and specialty. Most male nurses earn their DNP and become CRNAs. Other than CRNAs, registered nurse is the most popular nursing role for men.
Men are also drawn to certain specialties over others. According to the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, men made up fewer than 3% of LPNs and RNs who worked in specialties such as:
- School nursing
- Labor and delivery
Popular Specialties for Male Nurses
We made a list of the top five specialties for male LPNs and RNs, based on data from the 2020 National Nursing Workforce Survey, most male nurses are in specialties with fast-paced environments that require them to be adaptable, have physical stamina, quickly solve problems, and critically think.
RNs and LPNs who work in anesthesia work with anesthesiologists and CRNAs during procedures requiring anesthesia to administer presurgery medications and check on patients during surgery. They also monitor, educate, and care for patients in recovery.
Nurses in the emergency room quickly examine patients, perform triage, communicate with patients and families, and treat illnesses or injuries. Emergency room nurses working in a trauma unit or teaching hospital with increased resources handle more severe cases than nurses in crisis access or rural hospitals with fewer resources.
Intensive care nurses work in a fast-past environment and communicate with families and physicians. They handle complex medical equipment, give treatments and medications, and monitor patients with life-threatening injury or illnesses.
Mental health nurses work with patients with psychological or behavioral health conditions. They perform mental health screenings, help create treatment plans, give medication and treatment, educate patients and families, and keep medical records updated.
RNs and LPNs in this specialty care for patients with kidney disease and kidney failure. They examine patients before treatment starts, monitor patients on dialysis treatment, record patients’ medical information, and communicate with patients, families, and physicians.