Reports on actions to recruit more men into the profession are seen in the media across the globe. These actions range from campaigns by nursing organizations and nursing schools to calls by politicians. Breaking the stereotype that nursing is a female profession and achieving greater gender diversity in the profession are seen as significant measures towards relieving the worldwide shortage of nurses.
In Canada recently the New Brunswick Nurses Union announced that it was planning a campaign to encourage more men to take up nursing by changing public attitudes about the profession. In New Brunswick, only 5.5% of nurses are men as compared to 9.6% in the USA. “We need to break down those stereotypes because nursing has been seen traditionally as a female career,” said Paula Doucet, President of the Union. “There’s a whole cohort out there that we’re not actually reaching out to, to say that nursing is actually a wonderful career, and I think young men today could be looking at nursing as a possible career choice.”
The Scottish Conservatives health spokesman, Miles Briggs, called for the recruitment challenges to be addressed when statistics from 2017 revealed that the number of male nurses working in the National Health Service had dropped to a seven-year low. According to Briggs, it was clearly a cultural problem “But we can make efforts to change that now, to persuade males contemplating career options to man up and go into nursing,” emphasized Briggs. “It would diversify the workforce, something that’s always worth doing, but more importantly help address the recruitment crisis now and in future.”
“I hope the SNP government considers a recruitment drive of this sort, and it’s something we’d be happy to support fully,” responded the Health Secretary, Shona Robinson. “A campaign to recruit a more diverse workforce, tackle stereotypical images, and attract more people into nursing and midwifery education and careers, is currently being developed.”
“I’m seeing a lot on social media about the #MenDoCare campaign launched by the University of Dundee to attract male nurses.” said Brian Simpson who changed careers from being a police officer to retraining as a nurse. “I think perhaps a lot of guys look at that, and they just don’t see themselves in these roles. The old stereotypes still exist to a certain degree, and it’s still seen as being a female profession which couldn’t be further from the truth.” Simpson believed that getting newly qualified male nurses to talk to high school pupils about nursing would help the young men to understand exactly what they would be doing as a nurse.
The Icelandic Nurses’ Association (INA) has gone even further in encouraging more young men to enter nursing by offering to pay for their studies. In Iceland only 2% of nurses are male. This project will last for five years, and male nursing students who successfully complete an academic year will be able to claim their tuition fees back from the Association.
As can be expected there has been some backlash from female nursing students who will not benefit, as well as from members of the INA about their membership fees being used in this way. However, Guðbjörg Pálsdóttir, chairman of the INA, explained that this is only one of the projects undertaken by the Association and that wage terms generally improve as gender equality increases.