According to a Vanderbilt University School of Nursing study, the number of male nurses in the United States has nearly doubled since the 1980s - growing from 5 percent to 9 percent of the nation's 1.8 million nurses.
Just as the number of men in nursing has steadily climbed, so has the public's perception of the profession. A recent Gallup Poll ranked nursing as the most trusted profession, above teachers, military officers and even doctors.
This is promising news for those working to end the nationwide nursing shortage and stave off an impending health-care crisis. According to the Vanderbilt study, the nursing shortage could approach 800,000 positions by 2020.
To recruit and retain more nurses, educators must address the shortage of nursing faculty in the nation's colleges and universities. According to an enrollment survey by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, more than 26,000 qualified applicants were turned away from undergraduate programs last year due in large part to faculty shortages.
"Building awareness of the shortage of nurses and nurse faculty, as well as the benefits of a career in nursing, has had a big impact," said Andrea Higham, director of The Johnson & Johnson Campaign for Nursing's Future. "But concerted efforts must continue if we're to head off what is predicted to be a huge problem well into the next decade."
Higham said men are a key target of the awareness campaign, noting that if the number of men entering nursing each year grew to anywhere near the number of women entering the field, the nursing shortage would cease to exist.
Will the growing number of men entering the profession be enough to eliminate the shortage in time to accommodate the surge of baby boomers in need of increased medical care? Only time will tell.