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Do men still face stigma when choosing nursing as a profession?

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Mikey questions whether nursing is still lagging behind in the race towards gender equality


Being a student nurse is an important part of my identity.

It’s who I am and the morals I stand for are all part of the nursing role; compassion, empathy, amicability and kindness, to name a few.

However, as a male student, I find I am often referred to as the “male nurse” as if this is my defining trait.

I have a compassionate work ethic towards my patients. I feel I am a hard-working and compassionate student and I am gifted with the ability to make children laugh at difficult times. So why is the fact that I’m male my defining feature?

“Does the gender of a nurse make any difference to how they perform professionally?”

I’m not the only one. Male students often find themselves being referred to by their gender, ie “the male nurse”. It seems that in society today this term is often used to differentiate between members of staff and used as the primary adjective of choice.

But in a world where we are becoming more and more politically correct with gender having less and less influence over a person’s work, is the term “male nurse” really PC?
The world has moved on in recent years. Last year, the gender repricing law was passed, which meant that gender could no longer affect the rate of insurance premiums. Women are now able to become soldiers in the Special Air Service (SAS) special forces regiment, a previously predominantly male profession. There are women employed to help referee professional football matches. Female bus drivers are becoming more and more prevalent, whereas in the past bus driving was seen as a job for men.
In many areas of the public sector, gender differentiation has been addressed, such as in the police force. The term “policeman/woman” is now outdated and only the term “police officer” is recognised as being politically correct.

Should this be the case for nurses too? I have noticed that on the patient call bells on some wards, there is a picture of an outline of a nurse wearing a skirt and hat. Is this politically correct? Does this send a message to men that this is not a role for them?
In modern times, nursing is becoming a less female-dominated profession, but do male nurses still face stigma? If a heavy lifting task is needed and there is a male nurse working on shift, is it fair to ask him to carry out the heavy lifting task just because of his gender?

It feels as though we still have some way to go before we achieve gender equality in nursing.


Mikey Whitehead is a student nurse studying children’s nursing

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Readers' comments (1)

  • As a male student nurse I have only experienced one patient with a negative attitude. The remark was from an older female patient with the opinion that male nurses have no place in the hospital. She also informed me she would never get used to seeing a man doing a woman's job. This all happened in a room full of her relatives. I informed the lady I would respect her wishes and stay away from her during the time I was there. I also reminded her there was a time in history when there were men and women who held the opinion that women should never vote, that women should not be paid the same as men for doing the same work, and the law said women could not have a credit card in their own name. Leaving the room I reminded her that it is a good to these old fashioned bigoted ideas had no place in modern society!

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