Nursing is seen as a female dominated occupation but looking back in history before the development of modern nursing, males were prominent carers of others.
Here in Australia currently the total percentage of males who are working as nurses in the workforce is 11%. Slowly the numbers of males pursuing the profession is increasing but females nurses and midwives globally representation 70% of the workforce (WHO 2020)
Gender Roles & Stigmas-
Nursing began being seen as a female role after Florence Nightingale with her team of nurses began providing care to wounded soldiers during the Crimean War. Florence Nightingale established education as essential for the future of the nursing profession, which was outstanding as it led to woman gaining employment outside of the ‘house’.
In some countries nurses are still identified with strong female job titles of Sister or Matron, which emphasis the gender of the role more so. Therefore, society has perceived nursing to be a more traditional role of the female especially in the view of caregiving.
Males have and continue to face a lasting negative stigma with attitudes towards them that they ‘are not macho’ – as a gender stereotype, or that they couldn’t make it into medicine or seen as being less caring even less compassionate than female nurses. Are the struggles of males made harder as they become unheard voices whilst facing fear or shame.
But they have completed training, received a formal qualification and able to fulfil the actual role that the profession of nursing demands.
The biggest negative I can think of is that the assumptions from societal perceptions may stop a male person who is able and who could be passionate about the career of being a nurse may be ‘frigtened’ away and not pursue the profession of nursing before they are even recruited. I wonder if that is why the intake of males into the nursing profession remains low?
In the hospital setting I often work with nurses who are males and we acknowledge that patients preferences whether female or male is important. Often people from older generations or from religious backgrounds may not be comfortable with a male nurse, therefore we acknowledge, respect and adjust work loads as best as possible. Patients comfort is always paramount and this goes for male patients too, by supporting male patients they may find it easier or even be more open to say what they need to with a male nurse because being in hospital brings up many sensitive topics for any individual.
I understand many see the image of nursing as a traditional caring role and not always as a profession but as a nurse in the workplace I hope male nurses feel included, they bring many good qualities with them. As myself being female and only having a female nurse perspective, I hope other health professionals are able to form a separation from the stigma that is felt by male nurses. Basically having male nurses gives a representation of the population as a whole, they bring experiences, care and compassion to the profession in the same capacity as a female.
The popular movie ‘Meet The Parents’ illustrates Ben Stiller’s character as a male nurse who gets a lot of fun ‘poked’ at him as assumptions are made about his career. It seems males still receive pressure from others, their own personal peer groups and even the media.
WHO recognises the world-wide trend of needing 9 million more nurses and midwives by 2030, males are well positioned to fill this gap. Also, hopefully with time society’s acceptance will take a step in the right direction and improvements are made for the image of nurses.
Having males as nurses ensures that healthcare is represented and surrounded by the best possible people, also the strength in diversity is having a vast range of people with different qualities. Male nurses face many challenges, but to break misconceptions and effect change in healthcare we have a lot of work to do.
- We need lots more male nurses, but progress can come with bumps along the way-
2. ‘A bunch of Gaylord Fockers’: The prejudices failing male nurses-