By Luke Yokota MACN (ENL)
The Australia’s Future Health Workforce – Nurses Report published by the Department of Health (2014) forecasted a nursing shortage in Australia of 85,000 nurses by 2025, growing to 123,000 nurses by 2030. Even with expert opinions predicting these numbers, they may be inflated when taking into account successful strategies to improve retention rates and with assumed economic slowdown. It remains predicted, although reduced, nurse shortages may persist as high as 39,000 by 2025 or 45,000 by 2030 (Department of Health, 2014).
These statistics are confronting. In addition, the average age of the nursing workforce is 45 and recent statistics demonstrate low retention rates of newly qualified nurses. It is easy to see why this has been a topic of discussion. Although there is no one way to address the future shortage of nurses. As a profession, if we are to ease the transition to one of the most significant professional shifts of our generation, we will have to be prepared.
One area worth exploring is the promotion of men entering the nursing profession. The percentage of men in nursing in Australia hasn’t remarkably changed within 15 years. AHPRA registration for male nurses has consistently sat around 10%. Many barriers still remain for men considering a career in nursing with a fundamental paradigm that nursing remains a gender-specific profession.
Actively promoting men will be a key policy to buffer the looming deficiencies of nurses within Australia.
As avid readers of The Hive, we can all appreciate nursing is a worthy profession to invest a career. It is a compassionate, stable job, you are making a difference in your community and it is one of the most trusted professions. So why aren’t men abundantly lining up to enrol in nursing?
The reason can be mostly summed up in two words: barriers and perceptions.
To all the male readers out there, have you been met with stigma or stereotyping throughout your training and career?
The first time I told my grandfather I wanted to be a nurse, he laughed in my face. I have been asked many times of my sexual orientation with people assuming or at the very least questioning my sexuality for choosing nursing as a profession. This is one of many barriers and perceptions that inhibits many men from seriously considering a career in nursing.
How do we address this?
We need more discourse on men entering nursing as a career, role models within and outside our profession, both male and female nurses actively promoting further diversity within the profession and highlighting the benefits of increased diversity. I have female colleagues frequently say to me that having men in the profession adds an extra dimension to the services able to be provided while also adding additional value to a workplace.
This discussion is not about gender equality, it is about diversity. It is about employing the value that everyone is different and brings a unique quality, just as each gender brings a unique quality that adds different benefits. With the ever-looming shortage of nurses, now is a better time than ever to seriously consider as a profession ‘what are our priorities?’
Do we continue down the same, most-trodden path or do we mould our profession for the 21st century, incorporating all the necessary changes that are required to flourish in our current world? As stated at the beginning of this article, there is no one way to address the shortages of nurses but through building block ideas such as this, we will be one step closer to not only having enough nurses but also raising the quality of nursing provided by embracing diversity and breaking down barriers.
Department of Health. (2014). Australia’s future health workforce – Nurses reports. Retrieved from https://health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/australias-future-health-workforce-nurses