LeRoy Craig, Advocate for Men in Nursing

Profiles in Nursing

LeRoy Craig, Advocate for Men in Nursing

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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When men make up only about 10 percent of the nursing work force, it is easy to forget that even that small representation is a sign of progress. For much of the 20th century, there was rank discrimination against male nurses; they were denied even the tidbits of recognition extended to female nurses. As late as 1982, more than a few state-sponsored schools still did not admit male students.

But some men never gave up and never ceased to work tirelessly for equality. LeRoy N. Craig, RN, was one of these nursing heroes. Throughout his career he worked as an activist and educator to increase recognition and opportunity for male nurses, even taking on the American Nurses Association, which — until his efforts — refused entry to men.

The Power of the Pen

Any review of the literature reveals his frequent letters to editors and op-ed pieces in support of men. In his field of expertise, psychiatric nursing, he contributed at the local and national level, calling attention to the needs of male psychiatric patients. In 1955 he was a founding member of The Advocacy Alliance, a group that still champions the cause of the mentally ill and developmentally delayed.   

Craig graduated from the McLean Hospital Training School for Nurses in Waverly, Massachusetts in 1912 and went to work first as a private-duty nurse and then head nurse in the McLean Hospital, a private psychiatric facility associated with the school.

In 1914 he began a joint affiliation with the Men’s Nursing Department of the Pennsylvania Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases in Philadelphia and, as the first male head of a nursing school, the Pennsylvania Hospital School of Nursing for Men. He served there as director until his retirement in 1956.

Changing the Law

One of his most significant achievements was to interest Congresswoman Frances Bolton (R-OH) in the professional plight of male nurses. At the time, their attrition from the profession was pronounced due to the lack of equal recognition. Most notably, men were not allowed to receive an officer’s commission in the armed services. Even during World War II, when the need for nurses was most acute, male nurses could not serve as professional nurses. Rather, they were forced to function as pharmacy aides or attendants.

Finally, after 11 attempts in 11 years, the Bolton Bill passed as an amendment to the Army-Navy Nurse Act of 1947. When President Eisenhower signed the bill into law in 1955, Craig and his wife were present at the October 6th commissioning of the first male member of the Army Nurse Corps, Edward Lyon.

The Most Logical Niche

As an educator, Craig brought about several innovations. He strove to provide his students a well-rounded curriculum with specialty training in psychiatric and urologic nursing, in his mind the most logical niche for them. His strong feeling that men could serve in a unique capacity in several areas of nursing led him to encourage his students to pursue specialization in industrial, military, and private duty nursing.     

Under his leadership, the Pennsylvania Hospital School for Men Nurses served as one of the few schools in the country to provide an intensive course to navy corpsmen during World War II in preparation for serving casualty cases.

Craig died at the age of 89. Although he most often is remembered for his contributions to the advancement of men in nursing; in reality, his efforts benefitted all.   

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

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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