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Healthcare News - Nursing should be branded as gender neutral to attract men

Posted on 15/08/2018 by

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Nursing ‘should be rebranded as gender neutral’ to attract men

Scottish academics have called for a national campaign

The research concluded that nursing is still “inherently seen as a female profession”, which acted as a “powerful deterrent” for many men who might otherwise consider it as a career.

Less than 10 per cent of student nurses in Scotland are male, a figure that has barely changed in the past decade, the study led by academics from four leading universities found.

Men who took part in the research also said the term “male nurse” should be scrapped as it reinforced existing stereotypes, and called for advertising and recruitment flyers to be updated. The research comes amid concern over a lack of nurses in Scotland and ongoing recruitment problems, which NHS staff have already warned is having an impact on patient safety. 

Last year a survey by the Royal College of Nursing warned that staffing levels in hospitals are frequently lower than planned, with nurses having to stay at work longer to make up the difference. The Men in Nursing report was led by researchers at the University of Dundee in co-operation with colleagues from Edinburgh, West of Scotland and Robert Gordon Universities. 

They gathered views from nursing students, university and college lecturers as well as secondary school careers advisers around Scotland, with the aim of increasing recruitment rates.

Gender neutral campaign

The first of the report’s seven recommendations is for a “positive rebranding of nursing at a national level” so it is a more attractive career option for men. It adds: “This should be gender neutral and promote the skills and qualities of a nurse, the academic nature of the programme, the transferability of skills, the financial stability of the profession, the range of career opportunities and the opportunities for career mobility.” 

The authors call for gender neutral images of nurses to be introduced to children as early as nursery and primary school, so the profession is never seen as one only for women. They also recommend “unconscious bias training” for NHS workers, college and university staff, stressing the importance of gender neutral language and avoiding the term “male nurse”. 

The report also says a “co-ordinated marketing campaign” should be run by colleges, universities, and the NHS using high profile examples of men in nursing to act as role models. One of the report’s co-authors, Dr Heather Whitford from Dundee’s school of nursing and health sciences, said attracting more men into the profession would be a “huge challenge”. 

“This report provides us with key insights as to how we can increase the numbers of males entering the profession,” she added. “By introducing more gender neutral narratives we can show the potential of nursing as a worthwhile and rewarding career, regardless of gender.” The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

Case Study

Brian Simpson, 37, from Dundee, used to be a police officer but retrained as a nurse and graduated from the University of Dundee last year. “At the age I was when I started my course I didn’t have any reservations about the stereotypes, but I think if I was a teenager going straight in after school, I may well have had a different viewpoint. I might have cared more about what people thought at that age. 

There were four males in our class and we all got on well with the females we trained with. We certainly weren’t treated any differently, either at University or on placement. I absolutely think it would be better for the profession to have more men in nursing. 

There are some male patients who would rather be nursed by men for various reasons. One is the privacy aspect, and the other is the company they want when they chat to nurses on the ward, so it would be great to see more men come in to help meet the needs of all patients. I think nursing has a PR problem that stops men thinking about it as a profession for them. If you look at the posters health boards put out or the advertising on social media, it seems to be all females in these images. 

That’s not a deliberate thing, but it is unconsciously reinforcing the stereotype. If they could show more males in these roles it might help to get more men on to courses and into the profession.”

Source: iNews