School of Nursing lags behind peers in number of male faculty

The School of Nursing faces a challenge most other schools don’t: hiring more men to diversify its faculty.

The school’s full-time faculty corps is entirely female, but four part-time male professors keep students from learning from women exclusively. And although nursing schools across the country have trouble recruiting large numbers of male professors, GW’s five-year-old school lags behind its peers.

All of GW’s competitor universities with nursing schools have more male faculty. Vanderbilt University has 22 male nursing professors out of 174 total faculty, or 13 percent. Of the University of Miami’s 39 nursing professors, 11 are male, which is 28 percent. Duke, Georgetown and New York universities all have 10 or more male professors on staff.

The young nursing school has had a predominantly female team since it was part of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, but has not brought in new male faculty since launching its own school.

Jean Johnson, the school’s dean, said in an email that the school has tried to hire more male professors, but only 9.6 percent of nurses are male, posing a challenge to recruitment. And few male nurses are doctorally qualified, which is typically required for a full-time professorship.

“Having a diverse workforce is really important, meaning that we need more men in addition to racial and ethnic minorities. Having a diverse workforce has been a goal from day one – but admittedly we have had limited success,” she said.

Nationwide, while the number of men in the nursing profession has risen from 2.6 percent in the 1970s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, nursing schools have struggled to bring in male faculty members.

Elias Provencio-Vasquez, dean of the School of Nursing at the University of Texas at Palo Alto, said schools that already have a strong male faculty presence better recruit men.

“If there’s only one male or two males, other males tend to shy away from that,” he said.

Once schools prioritize diversification, Provencio-Vasquez said they must identify male faculty and then actively recruit them. If nursing schools approach men directly, they may be more successful, he said.

A male teaching presence in the classroom has become important as more men enroll in nursing programs, Provencio-Vasquez added. Last year, the School of Nursing had 14 male undergraduate students and 36 male graduate students, compared to 10 undergraduates and 32 graduate students in 2011.

Steven Skobel, one of the four male adjunct faculty in the school who focuses on hospice and pain management, acknowledged that diverse faculty ranks are a metric for quality, but he doesn’t play an active role in recruiting male faculty.

Since his time as a nursing student, Skobel said the number of men entering the field has increased, and he expects men to eventually catch up to women.

“You want to have females in predominantly male employment. I think it’s important to also have men in predominantly female occupations,” he said. “But I think that’s probably going to go by the wayside.”

Skobel said he didn’t think his experiences have been different from those of his female colleagues because he’s a man. One of the only times it proved to be a challenge was when working with women in labor, who were uncomfortable with a male nurse.

“I don’t think I’m doing anything to forward the role of men in nursing. I’m just trying to forward the role of palliative care in nursing more than anything else,” he said.

Deborah Chapa, an assistant professor of nursing, said the school must first hire the most qualified faculty members, but a diverse faculty is important to growing the profession.

Another assistant professor of nursing, Laurie Posey, said the school’s goals align with University-wide initiatives to increase diversity.

“We always try to do things that engage multiple perspectives and different disciplines, different genders, different race, all that contributes to a rich environment for learning,” Posey said.

William Lecher, president of the American Association of Male Nurses and senior clinical director at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, said schools must make an conscious effort to consider men in faculty searches.

“If 95 percent of the deans are women, how are they embracing this idea of gender diversity being important?” Lecher said. “Women can be very instrumental in the recruitment of men, but it has to be intentional.”

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