Student Shaun Martin reflects on his experiences as a male nurse on his first placement.
Most student nurses fear their first placement and I was no different. I think that pre-placement fear stems from the nightmare placements you hear about where your left on your own and ignored due to chaotic workloads.
Having little previous health care experience did not help the anxiety either. Figures say men only make up 11% of registered nurses and midwives in total, but I never thought my gender would have as much impact on my experience with patients as it has done.
My first six-week placement was in a lovely nursing home and I was very lucky to have such a good experience over all.
Upon arriving in my first week I was made to feel extremely welcome and every member of staff was helpful. I love to engage with residents so wasted no time introducing myself and striking up some conversations.
During the first conversation I had with a male resident I got asked why I had left the army to do this. I thought this was a strange assumption to make, so I just chuckled nervously and explained I have never been in the army.
During the medication rounds I was always paired with a female registered nurse and over the duration of the first couple of weeks I started to notice something a little strange when some residents were asked to take their medication by both of us.
I noticed they could be quite snappy and sometimes rude to the female nurse when she would speak, but were never like that with me when I spoke. I didn’t think much of this I just put it down to the residents knowing the other nurses very well and me being new.
“Even though most of the world has progressed leaps and bounds in phasing out traditional roles, I realised that our older generation had not moved on at all. It was a strange position to be in, I felt like I was caught in a time warp”
On one occasion after visiting a resident, the nurse said to me that when I had left the room to get some gloves the resident had asked if the doctor was coming back, meaning me. This point got me thinking that some of these older residents are treating me differently because they genuinely see me as someone I am not.
Over the following weeks my role came up many times in conversation between me and some residents during rounds and observations. I always explained I was a student nurse but every time I said this to a resident, there was always a pause.
A confused look and some face pulling. One resident asked if I would become a doctor after that. I laughed and said trust me, the yearly fees make it a bit cheaper to stay as a nurse. As I became more competent I started to give some medication on my own giving me more one to one time with residents.
On two occasions I had entered a resident’s room, I was referred to as doctor.
Even though most of the world has progressed leaps and bounds in phasing out traditional roles, I realised that our older generation had not moved on at all. It was a strange position to be in, I felt like I was caught in a time warp.
I have had a very different patient experience as a male nurse compared to my female peers and I learned that I need to be much more aware of the generational gap.
It has not changed how I feel though, if anything I am more determined than ever to become a registered nurse.
Shaun Martin, student nurse