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Why I Dislike My Label: 'Male Nurse'

16th Oct, 2018

Why I Dislike My Label: 'Male Nurse'

Nursing is an inherently female career. Florence Nightingale created the first nursing school and began developing the evidence-based practice model we now follow throughout our training and careers. The call signs on the patient’s buzzers still show the women in the dress. Do a google search (other search providers are available) for images of nurses. You will find the odd man dotted about here and there, but most of the images are women.

Just the other day on placement a nurse came into the break room to ask a question and when leaving said: “see you later ladies”. I didn’t take offence. I know I’m entering a career filled with women and I know most of these women are used to working with other women. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve met a reasonable amount of men working in this career. Several of my lecturers are male. Out of the five placements I’ve had, two of my mentors have been male and on one of the wards, there were two nurses, who happened to be male.

Men are a minority in nursing. Is this a problem? I don’t think so. How many careers are dominated by men? I was a tradesman before I began the journey to change my career and become a nurse. Most trades are dominated by men. I’ve met joiners and plumbers who are female, yet I have never called them female joiners/plumbers. Link it back to healthcare, there are male and female doctors. Do we call them male doctors or female doctors? No. We call them Dr whatever their surname is.

There is another side to this issue; men working to be seen in the profession and trying to draw other men into the profession. I’m sure it’s done with all the right intentions, but it comes with its fair share of backlash, especially on social media.

From the moment I stepped into this career, I have been drawn into several ‘men in nursing’ discussions and campaigns. There are drives from my own and surrounding universities to have more men applying to nursing courses. Is this a bad thing? No. I see social media groups who work to try and encourage men to enter nursing. Is this a bad thing? No. I have attended a consensus building event which aimed to discuss what impacted the recruitment and retention of men into nursing programmes. Is this a bad thing? No (It was actually very insightful).

The main issue with the term ‘male nurse’ is that it separates those within the profession. We need to move away from these labels and make the profession appealing to everyone, not just men. Nursing does not only require more men, but it also requires more people with the right skills, levels of compassion and drive to support people with their needs. In a generation where individuals are identifying as gender fluid or neutral, we need to adapt the image of nursing and remove the gender role from nursing. For me, it’s the only way I can see us bringing the right people into the profession. No matter how you identify, if you choose to study in this profession, you will be a nurse by the time you qualify.

Liam, Student Nurse, who also happens to be male. 

Liam Mackie, Mental Health Nursing Student | Abertay University

My name is Liam Mackie. I’m a second-year mental health nursing student at Abertay University studying their BSc (Hons) Mental Health Nursing programme. I currently work as a Health Care Support Worker/ Nursing Auxiliary on the bank with my local NHS trust. Prior to entering into this profession, I was a Plumber. I’m not yet sure what the future holds for me, but I have an interest in Addiction Services and Learning Disabilities.     

Make sure you check out Liam's blog: Ramblings of a student nurse

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