The female-dominated profession is also fast shedding its negative male-nurse stereotype.
Though men make up just 6 percent of the profession, they represent nearly 14 percent of the current nursing-student population.
With an opportunity for management and research, and salaries that mirror the premium that the medical field now places on the work, it’s no wonder that nursing is moving past its low-prestige image.
Nursing is one of the most popular and accepting professions for career changers, due in part to a shortage that’s gone on for decades. Nearly 40 percent of students studying to become registered nurses are over age 30, and candidates who already have four-year degrees are highly prized.
To attract students from other disciplines, nursing schools are putting new emphasis on second bachelor’s degrees that can be completed in about a year and are introducing master’s degrees meant to bring non-nurses into the profession. Half of R.N.’s hold just an associate’s degree or a hospital diploma.
Furthermore, the health system has become more complex, and nurses today need the skills to take on added patient care and management responsibilities, and pick up the slack in family practice and primary care — less lucrative areas that are no longer popular with medical students. Some procedures and care are moving out of hospitals and into physicians’ offices, community health centers, schools, and even CVS and Target. Nurses are running many of these operations and striking out on their own, starting clinics or home health care businesses.