Houston doesn’t have a problem

Men are 30% of UT’s nursing school

In the last issue of Hospital Recruiting Update, we reported on how men are underrepresented in nursing in general, and among nurses working at the bedside in particular. Getting them interested was on the minds of many of the people interviewed for the story. But at the University of Texas at Houston’s school of nursing, getting men interested in nursing is something they are good at. Indeed, fully 30% of the graduate students are men, and 16% of the undergraduates are male.

How do they do it? "About 10 years ago, we decided to change all our ads from the pink bow stuff to materials that always include men," explains Robert Volger, DNSc, RN, FNP, assistant dean of the School of Nursing.

When the school goes to agency recruitment fairs, among those who go are men, he adds. Male nurses also go out into the community to participate in health fairs. "We make a conscious effort to both include men and to target them," says Volger, who is quick to add that the impetus behind all this is the school’s dean, Patricia Starck.

Recruiters make themselves present at football games and other places men congregate. They place ads in papers and publications that have a high male readership. "We want people to see this as a legitimate career — for men and women," says Volger.

It helps promote a different image of nursing, too, that almost weekly on the television news there are images of UT’s hospital trauma centers and life-flight helicopters — complete with the male nurses they have on staff. "There is something about life and death hanging in the balance that men seem to relate to," says Volger. "They get a rush out of it." The technological expertise of the UT hospital — 6,000 beds in the largest contiguous medical center in the world — also appeals to men, he adds.

"Sometimes, this is a second career for men," Volger notes. "I’ve had students with PhD’s in subjects like geology." In Houston, for those who have long ridden the ups and downs of the oil industry, having a stable career like nursing has its appeal.

But you don’t have to have a depressed region to make nursing appeal to new groups of people. "Any hospital can make sure that the information they hand out includes images of men in care giving roles," he says. "And cut out the frilly stuff. Women don’t like that either. Women have more options now. Make nursing look like what it really is — highlight the critical thinking and the educational aspects of the job."


• Robert Volger, DNSc, RN, FNP, Assistant Dean, University of Texas, Houston, School of Nursing, 1100 Holcombe Blvd., Suite 5500. Houston, TX 77030. Telephone: (713) 500-2166.