I am a nurse. What does this mean? It means that I care for people’s physical needs and do for them what they, because of medical reasons, are unable to do for themselves. I am a man. What does this mean? It means I’m not a woman. Are these two states incompatible? Does the fact that I’m a man mean that I am somehow less capable when it comes to caring for people’s physical needs? I don’t think so.
I had a brief discussion at work tonight with another nurse about “male nurses.” She stated that she thinks it’s hypocritical of patients to refuse care from a male nurse when they allow a male doctor to care for them. I agreed.
She then shot herself in the foot by saying, “That’s why I don’t allow a male gynecologist to examine me. I don’t feel comfortable with a male gynecologist.” I told her she was a sexist. She denied it. I asked her what was it about male gyn’s that made her not want one. She said, “Just the fact that they are male.” I said, “That’s sexism.” She said, “No, it’s not.” I told her to change the word “male” to “black” and see how it sounded. She didn’t like that answer and refused to talk to me about it any more. For those of you who need it spelled out, I was asking her what’s the difference between saying, “I don’t feel comfortable with a male gynecologist,” and “I don’t feel comfortable with a black gynecologist.” I’ll tell you the difference: one is racism and one is sexism.
I get so tired of patients refusing care from me because I’m a man. I am happily married and have no plans to do anything to you that I shouldn’t be doing. I am a medical professional. That means that you should be able to trust me to be professional about our interactions and the care that I give you. If I haven’t given you any reason to doubt my professionalism, and you don’t want me to care for you simply because I’m a man, then you my friend are a sexist. You have prejudged me as unfit to care for you, and by refusing my care you have discriminated against me.
Some women have argued that they are “too modest” to allow a male nurse to care for them. I agree that modesty is important. Modesty is defined as “propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.” The definition of propriety that applies is “fear of offending against conventional rules of behavior especially between the sexes” So when people say they are “too modest” to have a male nurse, what they are saying is that they are afraid of breaking societal rules about men seeing them without any clothes. I wholeheartedly agree with this principle as it relates to daily life. However, in the medical field, it is sometimes necessary to see parts of the body that we don’t normally show other people, especially those of the opposite sex. Men seem to have no problem with this when they have a female nurse, I don’t see why women should have a problem when they have a male nurse.
I guess from now on when someone tells me they are “too modest,” I will simply agree with them. Yes, you are TOO modest. The word “too” means “to an excessive degree, to such a degree as to be regrettable.” You should be less modest when it comes to medical professionals. We are only trying to save your life.
EDIT: Evidently there are those who feel that I am advocating forcing women to subject their naked bodies to male doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers. I am not. I believe anybody who touches anybody else without their permission is wrong, no matter if they are a doctor, nurse, or anybody else.In my nursing career I have never forced any patient to be my patient against their wishes. Every single time a patient has requested a female nurse, I willingly stepped aside and found a female nurse that I could trade patients with (even the one man who refused me because he saw “male nurse” and assumed “gay” and he didn’t want a gay person near him.). I am not a rapist. I am not a molester.
The main reason I am upset when I encounter sexism is the fact that when a patient tells me on first meeting that they want a female nurse, it isn’t because now I don’t get the chance to see them naked. It’s because they have rejected me wholly as a person and not just for the intimate things. They are telling me, in effect, that my years of study to reach my current medical level were wasted.I have had many female patients in the past that were happy to have me as a nurse, let me give them medication, and other things, but when they needed to use the bathroom, get a catheter inserted, etc, they asked for a female, and I have had no problem with that whatsoever. The people reading my blog recently have confused my cry against their devaluing my nursing skills with some supposed desire to see women naked. I have a wife. I’ve seen many women naked in my career and most women in the hospital are not attractive. I don’t mean these women aren’t pretty, I mean that a woman wearing a hospital gown with tubes coming out of her is not a desirable thing, no matter what people think.
Again, one last time: all patients should have the right to decide if they want a healthcare worker of the same gender. I just think they’re wrong if they think that all men are rapists and molesters.
SECOND EDIT: This is a blog. It is a place for me to list my opinions about things. If you want to let me know your opinion, feel free to email me or comment. However, if your words are vitriolic, hateful, or in any way insulting (such as calling me a rapist as one person did this week), I will delete it. If you can’t be respectful of other people, don’t bother. And so, for the first time in the 9 years I’ve had this blog, I get to test the “end comments” function of WordPress.