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Men in nursing

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James Merrell, a third year student nurse, at Bournemouth University, takes a look at the reasons why an increasing number of men are entering nursing.

According to the latest Nursing and Midwifery Council figures there are now 65,755 male nurses, representing over 10% of the nursing workforce.

While perceptions about male nurses are beginning to change, some people believe the profession is still seen as a feminine one, which can make it hard for men to say “I want to be a nurse”.

According to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, more men seem to be entering mental health nursing, which has been long regarded as an ‘acceptable’ job for men. Men are also more likely to work in specialist areas such as intensive care and A&E, which are seen as more ‘manly’ than other areas.

Although nursing is seen as a female dominated career, I have never had a bad experience because of my gender. What drew me into nursing, not as a man, but as a human, was the interaction with people and the reward of helping others.

However, some male nurses probably do have a hard time and healthcare professionals should make an effort to respect the decision they have made to become nurses. They should acknowledge their contributions to healthcare and encourage them to grow professionally.

People accepted along time ago that men are becoming nurses and women are becoming doctors. Male student nurses have made a conscious decision to become nurses and they should not be criticised for wanting to help others.

Like most first year nursing students Ben Clifford’s greatest challenge at present is getting through the first-term of theory and then preparing for clinical placements in the new year.

Ben,a student at Bournemouth University, says, “After several years working as a freelance graphic designer and working for RNLI as a lifeguard, I decided to enter nursing.

“I wanted to help people when they are at their most vulnerable and make a difference to peoples’ lives.”

Ben adds, “Although I think my friends and family were quite shocked that I chose to enter nursing, they were all supportive. I do not regret my decision to come into nursing, I enjoy what I am doing and I am looking forward to the challenges ahead.”

Mark Gagan, a senior lecturer, says, “Any nursing student may struggle to live up to others’ expectations, whether those expectations come from a relative or a lecturer. However, male student nurses tend to be very “visible” to their classmates and the school where they are studying.

“Males that enter nursing also have to face additional challenges such as society’s expectations of men in the profession, as well as over coming stereotyping.”

Despite these challenges, it is well evidenced that men that enter nursing climb the ladder quicker and seek managerial roles quicker than their female counterparts. Is this because of stigma or because men seek positions of authority?

One of the things that we all have in common is our passion for nursing and helping others. We want to proactively help people reach there full potential while they are their most vulnerable and we see the potential in patients, rather than their limitations. In our opinions nursing is a great career and the rewards are endless.

Men are no longer put off nursing by sexual stereotypes and other people’s opinions of their chosen career. And, while nursing will probably be a female dominated profession for the foreseeable future, we still need to break some of the old stereotypes.

Although nursing is about compassion and helping people, there is much more to the job. Nurses are critical decision makers, patient advocates and promoters of good health.

What we do is good and it affects people’s lives in a significant way.


James Merrell is a third year student nurse at Bournemouth University

Ben Clifford is a first year student nurse at Bournemouth University

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Readers' comments (1)

  • I am a first year student nurse at UWS in Dumfries. Not only am I male, but I am also 54. I really just want to be the best nurse I can be and have had nothing but support from family, friends, classmates and lecturers. After nearly thirty years as a medical rep, I could not be more pleased to be seeing healthcare from the other side. I just wish I had done it years ago.

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