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.