A “record-breaking” number of male school leavers have applied to study nursing, according to NHS England, which has highlighted new figures showing an increase of over 50% in the last decade.
The government arms’-length body has picked up on latest figures from the Universities and College Admissions Service (UCAS) that reveal the number of 18-year-old men applying to study the profession is the highest it has been over the past 10 years and has increased by more than 50% in a decade.
Further analysis of the figures by Nursing Times shows that the largest increase for England was between 2009 and 2010, when applicants rose from 290 to 400.
“It surprises me that some people still think nursing is not an option for men”
The numbers then peaked and dipped between 330 and 380 during 2011 and 2017, before the quantity of applicants rose to a high point for the decade to 440 this year.
NHS England also highlighted that the data shows an overall increase of 9% in male nursing applicants since 2018, which the arms’-length body suggests means that attitudes around the career that has “often wrongly been portrayed as a female profession” are changing.
The health service noted that the increase comes in wake of their “We Are The NHS” recruitment campaign, which showcased the vast range of opportunities in the health service for new recruits.
NHS England has claimed that its campaign, launched to coincide with the health service’s 70th birthday last summer, has helped to reverse the trend of declining nursing applications.
However, analysis of the overall numbers by Nursing Times shows that that while there has been an increase of 210 male nursing applicants in the past year, up to 2,650 from 2,440, this is a considerably lower amount than what is once was three years ago.
The UCAS figures report that in 2016 there was a peak of 4,280 men that applied, which then dropped to 3030 in 2017.
As a result, although there has been a marginal increase between 2018 and 2019, the amount of male nurse applicants is in fact down in comparison to its high in 2016.
As previously reported by Nursing Times, the official data showed 30,650 people had applied to an undergraduate degree course in the country by the January deadline, up 4% from 29,390 at the same point in 2018.
However, applications have fallen from 33,810 in 2017 and 43,800 in 2016 – the last year students had their tuition fees paid for under the bursary scheme.
Male nurse Frankie Caruana, who starred in the NHS campaign, encouraged more men to consider the career.
“We want to get young people, including boys, to think about a career in nursing from an early age”
Mr Caruana, a senior orthopaedic practitioner from William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, said: “It surprises me that some people still think nursing is not an option for men.”
“I never feel prouder than when I’m making a difference to people’s lives day in day out,” he said. “I’d recommend a nursing career to anybody – man or woman.”
“Nurses in the NHS touch lives at times of basic human need, when care and compassion are what matter most and work as part of a supportive and inspiring team of people, who contribute to a valuable and enjoyable career,” added Mr Caruana.
The “We Are The NHS” campaign put the spotlight on nursing and prioritised key areas including mental health, learning disability and community and general practice nurses, which NHS England noted was all helping to deliver the NHS Long Term Plan.
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Director of nursing for transformation at NHS England, Paul Vaughan, said: “Nurses are at the heart of people’s NHS care so it’s encouraging to see such an uptake in nursing applications since the launch of the campaign – especially amongst men.
“We want to get young people, including boys, to think about a career in nursing from an early age, which is why NHS England has been working for some time with families and schools to highlight the huge positive impact we can have for patients and the many roles available within the profession,” he added.
Lisa Bayliss-Pratt, chief nurse of Health Education England, welcomed the increase in the number of applications, especially among 18-19 year-olds who were the focus of the body’s #KnowAboutNursing information campaign last summer, along with its work to support the NHS recruitment campaign.
“Through these campaigns we have also worked with NHS England, NHS Improvement and the DHSC to challenge the stereotypical image of nursing as a female career so the increase of 9% among male applicants is particularly excellent news,” she said.
“We know there is still much to do so we will continue to work with partners to attract even more people to nursing as a career, leading to better care for patients,” she added.