Busting myths, smashing stereotypes
If someone asks you to picture a doctor, it’s likely you’ll picture a man. If someone asks you to picture a nurse, it’s more likely you’ll picture a woman.
This unconscious bias is on the way to being addressed on the medical front as female medical student numbers have escalated in recent years – with women now accounting for over half of medical professionals at a training grade. Yet the amount of men training to become nurses has plateaued for decades at between 8–11%.
There is a misconception that Florence Nightingale ‘invented’ nursing, yet men have historically cared and nursed people as far back as Ancient Rome and Greece, on the medieval battlefields, within monasteries and during the European black plagues.
Despite the history, there are many suggestions for why this gender imbalance exists within nursing, and societal opinion is certainly one of them.
The stereotypical view of nurses being female handmaidens to doctors, as opposed to autonomous skilled practitioners, has been widely held both within professional settings and the general public.
Outdated job titles such as ‘Sister’ and ‘Matron’ have not really helped the profession encompass men within nursing. The perception that nursing is a low-paid vocation and not a career may also have deterred men from entering the profession.
People are living longer, the NHS is stretched, and we need more nurses to meet a national need, but public misconceptions mean that we as a society are already alienating 50 per cent of a potential workforce.
It is time that we grasped the nettle and busted the myth that nursing is only a career for women. The medical profession gender imbalance has changed in recent times, so it is time that the gender imbalance within nursing followed suit.
Young male nursing applicants surge
- Following NHS England's successful 'We Are The NHS' 2019 recruitment campaign, a record breaking number of male school leavers applied to be nurses.
- The number of 18-year-old men applying to study nursing increased by more than 50% in a decade, according to UCAS.
Nursing applications soar
- In 2021, over 60,000 people, keen to be part of the fightback against COVID-19, embarked on a career in nursing, according to UCAS.
- Total applications for nursing courses rose by almost a third (32%) to reach 60,130, with increases seen in each age group – from UK 18 year old school leavers (a record 16,560 applicants, up 27% on 2020) to mature students aged 35 and over, where for the first time over 10,000 (10,770, a 39% rise) applied.
A student perspective
The moment I realised... I wanted to be a nurse
Student Antony Ewart shares how caring for those close to him gave him the drive and focus to pursue a career in nursing.
“My biggest inspiration is my desire to help those that need it most during times when they are at their lowest. An opportunity arose for me to take a huge step out of my comfort zone and change my life’s pathway. Being male and a mature student, at first I feared how I would be accepted by a predominantly female group. Now, I would not dream of being without the amazing nursing students I am working with and who have accepted me as part of the team.”
Antony Ewart, MNurs (Hons) Nursing (Adult Health and Child Health) student
A staff perspective
Committed to boosting diversity
“Nursing is not only a caring role, but a fantastic career path – and we need more people to go into it. We aim to ensure our nursing and midwifery cohorts replicate the diversity of our society. I would genuinely encourage everyone to consider nursing.”
After years of sporting injuries and care from health professionals, Adult Nursing lecturer Kevin Hambridge decided nursing was the career for him.
Should male former soldiers consider a nursing career?
“We are trying really hard to bridge the gap and explain it is not just a job for women. Men can care just as well as women can.”
In the past few years, great effort has been made to encourage women to take more roles in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. But our aim is to increase the number of male nurses, to greater reflect the patient population and continue to meet their needs.
Daniel Clarke, Lecturer in Adult Nursing (Education)
School of Nursing and Midwifery
Our courses in the fields of adult, child and mental health nursing and in midwifery have been designed with your career and the future needs of the workforce in mind.
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