It’s no secret that there are predominantly more female nurses than male in the UK today. With only 10.8% of today’s nurses in the UK identifying male, this has to run deeper than a simple lack of interest from the male population. What, as a society, are we doing to cause this gender divide in nursing?
The crux of the issue is that, somehow, nursing is still considered to be a ‘female role’, and we have been installing this idea on to our children, who are the nurses of tomorrow.
This rather old fashioned social construct is connected to the frequent misconception that nurses are subordinate to doctors, almost percieved as an assistant, whereas both are equally important to the successful running of a hospital.
There is also a lack of education around male nurses; in history lessons, we are taught the heroic tale of ‘The Lady with the Lamp’, Florence Nightingale, which instils an idea from an early age that the nursing figure is female. What we are not taught, for instance, is about the many male nurses that tended to the wounded in the Crimean War. Male nurses supplied care as far back as the Knights Hospitaller in the 11th Century.
These ‘rules’ we teach our children around gendered careers and practises run so deep in our society and have done so for centuries. Women were seen as the caregiver of the family therefore it was an easy transition into the role of a nurse,while leading, high profile roles were of course, nearly always occupied by men.
Issues in the Media
A lack of representation around male nurses soon becomes miseducation in the media. For example, simply google the word ‘nurse’ and see how long it takes to find a picture of a male nurse. Longer than it should.
Not only is there the underrepresentation of male nurses in our education system and media, there is also a huge problem with misrepresentation of nurses, both male and female. On television, male nurses are frequently used as a source of comedy. Shows such as ‘Friends’ mock male nurses, implying that it’s far too feminine of a position for any self-respecting man to participate in. This mockery of male nurses not only discourages men from a career in nursing, but also can create a lack of mistrust around male nurses; it’s fair to assume that this is a factor behind why there is such a gender imbalance.
What’s next for male nurses?
The bottom line is that gender should not come into play in nursing; it’s an irrelevant factor. A nurse needs to be caring and assertive, decisive but gentle. These are not male or female traits, but human. Fixed gender roles that are prescribed by your sex are fast becoming less prevalent in our society, so we hope to see these stereotypes removed from the healthcare industry and for nursing to become a more gender neutral career for future generations.
It comes down to us. We can educate today’s children that nursing is an incredible, admirable, genderless career. Nurture the traits that would make a great nurse and encourage students down the right path, regardless of identity.
Reasons to become a nurse, no matter how you identify
Nurses are in high demand!
It is a stable and long term career.
Depending on where you work, your nursing shifts can fit around you.
It is an active role, if sitting at a desk all day is not your thing then this may be the perfect opportunity for you as it is a profession of constant movement and challenge.
You can make a big difference to someone’s care and quality of life. You will leave a positive mark on someone’s day on each shift.
There are so many options to specialise in including paediatrics, psychiatry, oncology and much more.
You can inspire people who may want to follow in your footsteps.
At Meltemi, we support anyone who wants to work in the healthcare industry, regardless of gender. We very proudly provide the NHS with their scrub uniforms, and manufacture tunics, trousers, scrubs, and coats for men and women.
Browse our workwear clothing options today. If you are not sure where to start, give us a call on 01603 731330.