Stereotype threat in male nurse-patient interactions



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Throughout history, men have played a significant role in the field of nursing. However, they currently represent only 12% of nursing students and 9.6% of Registered Nurses. As a minority in their occupation, male nurses experience gender-based barriers and negative stereotypes that female nurses do not. Research has addressed these barriers and stereotypes, but has lagged in identifying the consequences of exposure to them other than men's reluctance to enter or stay in the field. With the nurse-patient relationship at the core of quality healthcare, it is important to further clarify the consequences of stereotype exposure for male nurses in the clinical setting. The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the communicative consequences of exposure to gender-based stereotypes among male nurses through the theoretical lens of stereotype threat (Steele & Aronson, 1995). Stereotype threat describes the apprehension individuals experience from the prospect of confirming a negative self-relevant stereotype. In the reported experiment, the salience of gender-based stereotypes (women are more empathic than men; men are better managers than women) was controlled for while male and female nursing students completed a simulated nurse-patient interaction task. Findings from this study highlight the influence of subtle stereotyping in simulated nurse-patient interactions. Specifically, men were less grammatically accurate when participating under conditions of threat than when not under conditions of threat. This finding provides a need for caution as healthcare is experiencing a shift towards e-health, which will rely heavily on both the spoken and written word. Additionally, findings suggest that the disruptive potential of making salient stereotyped attributes (e.g., empathy) may be offset by patient gender. For example, male participants were less tentative under conditions of threat with a female patient than a male patient. The influence of patient gender provides optimism that a shift in gender-based stereotyping is occurring. Therefore, it is an optimal time to increase recruitment and retention efforts of men in the field of nursing. Recommendations for such efforts are offered as well as future directions for stereotype threat research in interpersonal communication and healthcare.