Chad O'Lynn, a Modern-day Templar Knight

Profiles in Nursing

Chad O'Lynn, a Modern-day Templar Knight

Changing the atmosphere for men in nursing

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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Chad O’Lynn did not set out to be a nurse. After graduating from college with a liberal arts degree, he was faced with the question, “What am I going to do now?” O’Lynn could’ve gone in several directions, but he eventually chose nursing; not as a career choice (at first), but as an, “I’ll do this until I figure out what I want to do in life.”
Now, after obtaining a Ph.D. from Oregon Health and Science University, he’s one of the more visible men in the profession, contributing the perspective of a male in nursing in a variety of ways.

Along with Russell Tranbarger, he’s the editor of Men in Nursing: History, Challenges and Opportunities (Springer 2007), a very useful collection of studies and analyses of gender issues in nursing, with which O’Lynn is very familiar.

He went through the first part of school never seeing another nurse of the male persuasion on any hospital unit. He never learned of the rich heritage of men in nursing — a history that dates back at least as far as the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller in the Middle Ages. And, except for the unauthorized initiative of one intrepid nurse, he would not have had a complete maternal child health rotation, including delivery and postpartum.

Fortunately these experiences did not deter him. Much of his professional life now centers on changing the atmosphere for other men. He’s an assistant professor of nursing at the University of Portland, where one of his research focuses is rural nursing, a good fit for an avid hiker. Another interest: how men communicate differently, and how this affects relationships with patients and with fellow nurses, who, as we know, are mostly female. He has served the American Assembly of Men in Nursing as its secretary and as editor of the organization’s publication InterAction.

Like many other men in nursing, O’Lynn sees a need for improvement. The profession needs more career marketing directed to men, more realization of the unique contributions they make as men, and more insight into the persistent difficulties that drive men away at higher rates than women.

On the day of our interview O’Lynn had just finished speaking with a group of economically disadvantaged high school students, and, possibly, future nurses. To these young people O’Lynn offers nursing as a choice with the same pluses he discovered: an attainable career with a sound economic payback. He points out to them that a beginning nurse can make more than a rookie police officer or firefighter.

Take a note from his play book and talk up the value of nursing to society. But don’t forget to mention the very real advantages to the nurse.


American Assembly for Men in Nursing
The University of Portland

Elizabeth Hanink RN, BSN, PHN, is a freelance writer with extensive hospital and community-based nursing experience.

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