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At the 2018 Australian College of Nursing (ACN) National Nursing Forum (NNF), ACN Men in Nursing Working Group Chair Luke Yokota MACN shared his views on why men continue to be a minority in nursing with the Federal Health Minister Hon. Greg Hunt MP and over 500 delegates.

Luke shared his experiences of being a male nurse and the barriers he faced when considering a career in nursing. He believes that if any man is deterred from pursuing a career as a nurse then we have failed as a community. He encouraged a national target for men in the nursing profession, as we have done in other industries for women entering male-dominated professions to break down stereotypes, barriers and limitations. Luke shared a key message that “it’s ok for men to care” which led to the hashtag #itsoktocare being created and embraced by the audience on the day. This was a significant moment that was well received by the Health Minister, The Hon Greg Hunt MP, and initiated the start of the ACN Men in Nursing Working Group.

Stemming from Luke’s inspirational speech, this introduction to ACN’s men in nursing series highlights the value of nursing as a career path for men, raises awareness of the issues facing men in our profession and introduces the ACN Men in Nursing Working Group.

  • Nursing: A rewarding and vital career choice for men

Nursing is a fulfilling career choice for men which has a number of benefits to the health care profession. The “desire to help people” or “ability to make a difference” have been highlighted by men as an influencing factor to pursue a nursing career.i ii Other important factors include a stable career, being influenced by a family member or close friend who was already a nurse and a desire to secure a job with a variety of career paths. Nursing also offers a career choice for men interested in an occupation that combines science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) knowledge with people-centred work environments, iii a factor that is consistent with current Government initiatives to enhance the focus on STEM subjects in schools.iv

We also know there are significant benefits to increasing the number of men in the nursing profession. Gender diversity in nursing can have a positive impact on improving the work culture,v and the quality of patient care.vi For some patients it is culturally and/or psychologically preferable to have access to a male nurse,vii and increasing the number of men in nursing will expand the recruitment base and help meet rising demand for nursing services.

  • The shortage of men in the nursing profession

Despite crucial importance of male nurses, the nursing profession has historically been gender stereotypical with membership dominated by women. Many factors that traditionally deterred men from entering nursing such as antiquated titles of matron and sister, low pay, and perceptions of patient discomfort no longer exist or have been refuted by research findings.viii ix Furthermore, social perceptions are changing and men entering nursing are now influenced by knowledge gained from family and friends in the profession.x

Despite these progressions, numbers of male nurses still remain low. Registration data in 2017 shows that men make up just 11.75% of the registered nursing workforce in Australia. xi These figures are on par with comparable countries where the proportion of men is similarly low, 10.2% in the United Kingdom, 7.2% in the United States of America and 6% in Canada.xii The majority of men who do choose nursing as a career path do so after the age of 20xiii and mainly work in critical care area’s (21.8-27%), management (11.3-19%) and mental health (7-27%).xiv xv

Actively promoting and engaging men to enter the nursing profession will be a key policy that adds to buffer the looming deficiencies of nurses in our health and aged care systems. To do this we need to remove society’s stereotypical barriers for men wishing to become nurses and promote an image that it is ok for men to care.

  • ACN Men in Nursing Working Group

The ACN Men in Nursing Working Group has considered these issues and is working on strategies to change the perception of nursing in Australia to be more inclusive of men. The objectives of the men in nursing working party are to:
1. Increase the number of men entering the nursing profession after school as their first profession
2. Meet the predicted shortfall of nursing workforce demand
3. Remove the stigma that nursing is a profession for women only
4. Encourage men to work in areas of nursing outside of critical care, mental health and administration/management
5. Retain men in nursing
6. Understand the issues faced by men entering and staying in the nursing profession
7. Send an overarching message to the community that it’s ok for men to care.

ACN is strongly dedicated to addressing the key issues facing men in the nursing profession. We are currently seeking stories from men in nursing which will be released in a campaign later this year. If you are a male nurse, we would love to hear about your journey in the nursing profession. Please send through a 500-800 word piece detailing your experience to publications@acn.edu.au.

i Stanley D., Bearment, T,. Falconer, D,. Haigh M,. Newton R., Saunders R,. Stanley K and Wall (2014). Profile and perceptions of men in nursing in Western Australia. Research Report 2014. UWA Print. Perth.

ii Hodes Research (2005) Men in Nursing Study. Advancing Men in Nursing website.

iii Juliff D, Russell K, Bulsara C (2016) Male or nurse what comes first? Challenges men face on their journey to nurse registration Australian Journal of Advanced Nursing 45(2): 220-227

iv National STEM School Education Strategy. A Comprehensive Plan for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in Australia 2015 http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/National%20STEM%20School%20Education%20Strategy.pdf Accessed October 2017

v Colby N 2012 Caring from the male perspective: A gender neutral concept. International journal for Human Caring 16(4): 36-41

vi Institute of Medicine. (2010). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health. Washington DC: The National Academies Press

vii Abudari M, Ibrahim A, Aly A. (2016) ‘Men in nursing” as viewed by male students in secondary schools Clinical Nursing Studies 4:2 41-46

viii Colby N 2012 Caring from the male perspective: A gender neutral concept. International journal for Human Caring 16(4): 36-41

ix National STEM School Education Strategy. A Comprehensive Plan for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education in Australia 2015 http://www.educationcouncil.edu.au/site/DefaultSite/filesystem/documents/National%20STEM%20School%20Education%20Strategy.pdf Accessed October 2017

x Rajicich D, Kane D, Williston C, Cameron S (2013) If they do call you a nurse, it is always a ‘male nurse’. Experiences of men in the nursing profession

xi Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia Registrant Data Reporting period: 1 April 2017 – 30 June 2017

xii Stanley D., Bearment, T,. Falconer, D,. Haigh M,. Newton R., Saunders R,. Stanley K and Wall (2014). Profile and perceptions of men in nursing in Western Australia. Research Report 2014. UWA Print. Perth.

xiii Stanley D., Bearment, T,. Falconer, D,. Haigh M,. Newton R., Saunders R,. Stanley K and Wall (2014). Profile and perceptions of men in nursing in Western Australia. Research Report 2014. UWA Print. Perth.

xiv Stanley D., Bearment, T,. Falconer, D,. Haigh M,. Newton R., Saunders R,. Stanley K and Wall (2014). Profile and perceptions of men in nursing in Western Australia. Research Report 2014. UWA Print. Perth.

xv Hodes Research (2005) Men in Nursing Study. Advancing Men in Nursing website.

1 Comment

  1. This is all well and true, however, as a future male RN I will be competing against the female majority for a graduate position, and I can’t presently obtain a nursing assistant or personal carer position due to a preference of females (I hope I’m wrong).
    And having gone through a few placements, I can safely say that there is a higher number of males in mental health because they simply can’t find work on the medical/surgical wards.

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