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‘Do we really need more men to join the profession?’


This month’s issue of Nursing Times sees the start of a new series of articles that focus on a specific specialty or topic in nursing. 

We are kicking off with the sensitive subject of men in nursing, asking why there are so few in the profession, whether it needs more and, if so, how can it attract them. We have broached these questions, while also looking briefly at the history of men in nursing, highlighting case studies and hearing views from across the profession, from those in senior roles to those just starting out as students. 

Back before Florence Nightingale, nursing – or what was referred to as nursing in the 19th century – was a male dominated area. Currently, roughly one in 10 nurses are male and looking back at the Nursing Times archive, I found an article on gender discrepancy published a decade ago that showed little had changed since then. 

The subject has gained pace in recent weeks, with questionable claims that more younger men are choosing to apply to study nursing in the wake of an NHS England recruitment campaign and the publication of a research paper highlighting the fact that men in nursing are over-represented at senior bands in the NHS.  

Meanwhile, the new chief nursing officer for England, Dr Ruth May, has already dipped her toe into the area of gender in the profession. In her first major interview with Nursing Times Dr May said she planned to take gender-neutral “future nurse” uniforms into primary schools to encourage both boys and girls to think about a career in nursing and show the profession in a modern light.

I tackled the issue of men in nursing towards the end of last year, when chairing a panel debate on the topic at an international health conference. I decided to challenge those present by asking whether we actually needed more men in nursing, given that there were plenty of other professions that were male dominated. 

The firm answer I received was that globally there was such a shortage of nurses that meant we could not ignore half of the population as potential recruits. Those we spoke to also highlighted a range of other reasons, such as patient choice, as well as suggesting how we might redress the gender balance in nursing. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether you agree with them. 

Look out for more focus articles during 2019, with the next one in April set to put the spotlight on learning disabilities nursing.  


Readers' comments (7)

  • I voted for this motion at RCN Congress which was not passed.
    I am happy to support more men to enter the nursing profession. However, we know that they progress faster and take key leadership roles.
    I wish people would spend more time on the elephant in the room; the disparity of BME nurses in leadership roles despite the number in the NHS. London is a case study , majority of their nurses are from a BME group but very poorly represented in Senior roles. If anyone comes out with the ususal patronising twaddle, I will scream.
    Campaign for nursing , getting more men into nursing but don't forget this issue that has had little change despite discussions at Congress and elsewhere. Whereis the sense of injustice applied to other causes ?

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  • It's nice to know that men are tolerated in nursing primarily because there's a shortage! It's just a shame that the tone of this article isn't that men should become nurses because they are just as capable of compassion and caring as women.

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  • You don't need more men in nursing. You need more people in nursing.

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  • So long as men are excluded from traditional female roles women who wish to move into more traditional male roles will have to fight against the pull of the huge vacuum left by the lack on men in caring roles like nursing.

    Men should become nurses because they are just as capable of compassion and caring as women.

    Hopefully someday men will make up 50% of all levels of nursing.

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  • I agree that we need more people in nursing. Why make needing more men an issue? The more important issue is that we need better pay and working conditions, if that happens the men will probably follow...

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  • We need more nurses who are competent and professional. The contents of their underwear is irrelevant.

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  • We need more nurse regardless of gender. The profession needs to make nursing a more desirable profession to work in.

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