labor nurse has been reborn and shares her experiences as a new nurse-midwife, woman, and blogger

Monday, October 8, 2007


I have been trying really hard to abstain from using the F word on this blog.... but I'm going to blow. So here goes nothing....

What the fuck is the issue with male nurses in obstetrics? Huh? Really, why is it so taboo for a male nurse to be in a women's health area? Does it make them perverts? Are they looking for a free peep show?

Hell, no!

So why this sudden outburst? Because I have a male nursing student who has been treated like shit, that's why. My clinical group right now is an excellent bunch of students, particularly this male nursing student. He's bright, a quick learner, is personable, and seems to enjoy what he's learning. On our clinical orientation day, I asked the group if they were nervous about working with newborns and new mothers. Every one said yes, but this male student was petrified. He was afraid of how he would be received.

I told him not to worry, that these women have male physicians. So what's the difference, right? Fortunately, every woman and family he cared for really liked him. There was even one new mother who openly discussed her abusive situation with him, something she didn't do with the staff. For the most part, the postpartum and nursery nurses were fine with him as well.

Until, that is, he went to the labor and delivery unit. The hospital I do my clinical teaching at is a community hospital within a fairly good sized city. There are a lot of old school type obstetricians there (some of them were in practice when my mother had me!), and the nursing staff is well past their prime. The nurses, particularly the older ones, on this labor and delivery have scared my students shitless on occasion. They can even be snarky with me, but since I've stood up to them from the start (not to mention discussed their bad attitudes with their nurse manager and my program dean) they have been better with me.

So my usual routine is to make my student assignments on the postpartum unit first, then hit the L&D to see what is going on and what patients are ok with having a nursing student. This past clinical day I talked with a charge nurse I had never met, and was pleasantly surprised with her enthusiasm for students. She asked if there was a student available at that very moment to come down and observe a cesarean birth.

I ran back upstairs and grabbed my male student. He was so excited to get this opportunity. The charge nurse didn't bat an eye that he was a male, and she brought him back to the OR. I thought all was well and good.

Until he was suddenly back on the postpartum unit an hour later. He said the nurse caring for the c-section patient was rude, and told him to leave the OR as soon as the surgical drape was coming off. He decided he'd go wait in the PACU recovery area, but was told by this same nurse to leave. When the patient was settled in the PACU, he went back in to the room and asked if he could help do vital signs and fundal checks and what not, and was told to step out.

Apparently the charge nurse was aware of this, and suggested that he follow the pediatrician with the baby. Because the pediatrician at that point was pretty much done, there was nothing for him to do. He approached the nurse again, and she said he didn't need to see an exposed woman, especially as she was trying to breastfeed.

What the fuck? What was she thinking? That he was just trying to gawk at naked women? All she was doing was perpetuating the myth that breastfeeding is a sexual and perverse act that should be kept private. Come on!

Needless to say, the student knew why this nurse was acting this way. And he was pissed. I can't blame him. I'm just as pissed, if not more so. No one would bat an eye at a male obstetrician in that room, so why would a male nurse be an issue?


AtYourCervix said...

Unbelievable that a nurse had this type of attitude! UGH! I get male and female nursing students a lot on my L&D unit, and I love having them follow me around when I take care of my patients. I like to try to get them doing some hands on care, if they can (L&D is supposed to be only an observation type of rotation for this school, but I get them doing hands on assistance anyway!).

Sometimes, I've had patients refuse a male student (sometimes even refuse a female student), but it's their choice really.

We also get a lot of EMT students, which are primarily males.

kristina said...

I'm as upset as you are. Are you thinking of taking any action?

Midsummer Night said...

That is just awful! I had one male nurse when I had my first son and that nurse was by far my favorite. I would pick him to be my nurse again any day.

Labor Nurse said...

I won't be taking any action with this. I had spent my entire last semester going up every chain of command I could find with other issues I had with this staff, and it has gone no where, obviously. I'm not sure it would be worth it. Other female students have have troubles with the L&D nursing staff at this particular hospital, for different reasons, so in that sense all is equal! But, like I said, I never really got anywhere with that so I am just letting this go. With a lot of complaining.

Tonia said...

I can't believe that! Well, I can but it is ridiculous!!! I prefer male obgyn's, and would be equally open to a male nurse.

buggsmommy said...

Having just given birth a second time, I would've welcomed a male nurse into any part of the experience. I think it's ridiculous to discriminate. Poor guy. The male ob/gyn at the practice I go to gives more compassion and time to me when I go there than a few of the women in the group. (I happen to think it's a great group of physicians, but noticed a difference long ago.)

Tough go for your student...hope it gets better. You're a great advocate though :)

Christina said...

That is crazy! If we have male OBs, why can't there be male nurses on the L&D floor?

We have our L&D clinicals next quarter, and one of the guys in my class said he's dreading it. He doesn't think he belongs there, and I've told him that he belongs there as much as the rest of us students.

Anonymous said...

I'm in agreement with you. However, if my pt. is not comfortable I won't allow them, wheter an RN student or paramedic student. I usually can be nice about it, but sometimes instructors can get pushy and I might appear to be a bully. But, 9 times out of ten it's never a problem for me because most patients don't have a problem with it. Usually, if they are going to have a problem, they just don't want a student in there period, regardless of gender.

mommymichael said...

i prefer women just as a personal reason, but the few times i've had a male ob check me, i've found that they were gentler when it comes to any vaginal exams. maybe it was just the ones i went to.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I have been a nursing instructor as well and could hardly ever get a male student to a birth.

There is a huge irony here though. I am a former home birth mom who had a baby at home with a male and female CNM in attendance. It was a great experience.

I intended to become a CNM. But after a year of labor nursing I became certain I could never be a care provider at a homebirth. I don't believe no matter how well risk screening is done it overcomes the risks of being far from an OR ( among other things). I also was taken aback ( as a new nurse ) at the incredible team that can be brought immediately to help a mom or baby in trouble, and how much time, skill and lots of experience matter. I also believe now the statistics supporting the safety of homebirth are seriously flawed.

I am not critizing you. We probably have much in common. But the irony in our life experiences, and what we have learned from them and decided is safe, is amazing.

I look forward to exploring your blog futher. Good luck in your journey!

Nicole said...

Honestly, I can see the point of the nurse who sent him out of the room. I've never had a male OB or midwife, nor would I be comfortable with one. I certainly wouldn't want a male nurse taking care of my PP issues and clean up. I especially wouldn't have wanted a male nurse in helping me try and learn to breastfeed right after I had my first.

I think the patient's needs and wants should come first, personally, and understandably a lot of them probably wouldn't be comfortable with a male L&D nurse or male PP nurse. What's the problem with that??

Labor Nurse said...

Nicole, there isn't a problem with a patient feeling uncomfortable about that. That is not my issue. Although, just as an aside, I have a problem with women who have no qualms about a male OB but refuse a male nurse. That makes no sense to me.

But in regards to this particular incident, the patient had consented to this student observing, etc. It was the nurse who had the problem with it.

Alice said...

i mean, really! What's one more person when GOD and EVERYBODY has seen all your goods, who cares what their sex is...just so long as they're doing their job? (unless he's cute...then we might have an embarrasment issue?) hmmm...

Kim said...

Hey there. Just discovered your blog so I'm reading on back thru the history.

Anyway, I'm [this close] to being done with nursing school and I'm doing my preceptorship in L&D

One of the guys in my class really wanted to do his preceptorship in L&D as well, but ultimately decided not to because he remembered how poorly he was regarded during his L&D rotation during the normal school year.

It makes me really sad, because I *know* he would be an excellent L&D nurse.

Rich said...

Thank you so much for your article in rebirth. I graduated yesterday but have been having some real problems. I have been an OB tech for 4 years and my patients love me, some of my nurses have learned that I am not a demon, but some, not all, of my instructors have made my life a living hell. I even took one to the Human Rights Board and won which just infuriated 'the group'.
I truly love what I do and feel that I have found a niche in L&D. Fathers are an integral part of the birthing process (hopefully) and I try to help them bond to their new babies. This helps my primary patient by relieving her of some of the demands equated with postpartum stress. It helps the infant by doubling the attention available for cares.
Fathers want to be good daddies but first time fathers may not know how. Men don't have dolls to play with growing up so they don't have that experience. Many times I have had fathers, after moving over to MNCU, come back to find me and ask, "How do I change a diaper?" or, "How do I do that burrito (swaddle) thing?" I love to act as role model and help these fathers become the father's that they wish to be.
I feel I have changed the unit to be more father friendly. When I first started fathers were referred to as FOB (Father of Baby) while this is the standard it is very close to SOB. I started asking what the father's names were during report. After some,"I don't knows" and "What difference does that makes" I unobtrusively kept asking and now Fathers names, when available, are given during report. Just a little thing but I think important.
Now, I am a graduate nurse. My current supervisor is not the supervisor that hired me. I was told that I could no longer work as a tech after graduation but before NCLEX passage. Fortunately, several nurses got together and asked,"Why not?" I was taken off the schedule by the scheduling clerk. At that time, on the orders of my supervisor. Now the scheduling clerk doesn't remember who told her to take me off. I specifically asked at the time why I was removed from the schedule and was told my supervisor requested it. I am back on now until I pass the NCLEX.
I applied for a position. Bear in mind I have been an employee for 4 years, section scrub tech for 3 years, I teach the car seat portion of the prenatal classes, I am cross trained to the newborn nursery, L&D, and MNCU, The doctors enjoy working with me (The OB medical directors from both hospitals here in town are on my resume' reference list), and my last evaluation I was rated as 'Role Model' (Highest rating) in all but one category.
One of my classmates just got hired. 'SHE' is excellent and will make a great nurse but lacks any of the experience that I have with any hospital. So, after all my hard work, after June 4 (NCLEX test) I am unemployed.
I know how to go through the whole Human Rights Board battle but frankly I don't want to get a reputation for suing every entity I come into contact with. This has been my employer in L&D and I need the reference.
I am just between a rock and a hard place. Any suggestions?

Labor Nurse said...

Rich, yikes, you are in an awful spot. I think that if the position is filled with someone else you should file a discrimination against the hospital. But I understand that this could inadvertantly hurt you.

Outside of this, I don't know what to suggest!