May 11, 2017

The Stigma of Being a Male Nurse

When someone says the word nurse, what do you picture – a man or a woman?

Much like teaching and midwifery, nursing has been dominated by women for decades.

However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t men working in these industries. There are men teaching at schools, working as nurses and even working in aged care.

There is a stigma against men who are nurses, something that most men generally do not understand because, chances are, they work in a field where males are the majority.

A NSW study was conducted to analyse nurse employment and see what methods can be undertaken to increase retention. It also examines the challenges that are faced by men who work in female-dominated roles.

What the survey saw was that most of these men enjoyed their jobs, however many dealt with gender stereotypes ranging from assumptions about their sexuality to their actual role.

Men who work as nurses are often assumed to be gay, a medical student or the doctor.   

Statistically, more men are becoming nurses now than ever – one in ten nurses are now male. However, the profession is still seen as a female vocation.

It’s possible that the reason this has happened in the nursing and midwifery fields is because they are considered “caring” roles, and men are viewed as the “less caring” or “nurturing” gender.

Published in latest edition of the Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing, the study reported that men wished the nursing profession was “defeminised” to improve ­society’s acceptance of men in the role.

One nurse surveyed told of his experience working in a mother and baby unit at a hospital. He said that he was met with hostility from both patients and other nurses in the unit, some of who even questioned his presence there.

As the population increases and ages, there is a higher demand for nursing staff. It has become evidently important that the sector invests in recruitment and retention of all nurses, including male ones, to meet the demands.

Because of the stigma that male nurses faced, the respondents admitted that they often lied about their job in public, stating they worked in “health” or the public service.

One of the solutions suggested in the study, was that when training nurses, the curriculum and educator should adopt a “gender-neutral stance”, to not exclude the male students in the course.

There was also a call for the adoption of a professional title which would be used by both men and women – recusing the opportunity for men being viewed as a “gender minority”.  Essentially taking the “male” out of “male nurse”.

The study also suggested that there also be an establishment of male support groups for men working in nursing.

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