Gender in Nursing

So I’m banging my equality drum again. This time it’s definitely linked to nursing.

I picked up my subscription of the Nursing Standard as I was sipping my coffee in Starbucks the other day and was grabbed by the front page article. I remember that a fellow student also pointed it out on Twitter earlier in the week that I meant to follow up on. file

I’m not sure on my exact career path but I’ve been given feedback on my character during my time at uni stating I would be suited to a staff leadership role (I don’t see it myself but you listen to others…right?). I’m not ruling it out of my future plans so therefore I started to read with interest..

As I read more my heart just started to sink a little. Sister is constantly mentioned throughout the article. There is not one mention of Charge Nurse or any males held up as an example. To be fair to the author, she mentions Community Team Leader as an alternative two times. The illustration also appears to have a man on the cover  I’m good with tradition and a Sister has been a Sister since before I was born but the role has evolved now and is not solely the domain of one sex. Is it time to retire the official title “Sister”?

I am NOT saying this is a malicious or calculated attack or discriminatory view of male nurses. It may be subliminal or unintended but it conveys a bit of a message doesn’t it? Am I being a little dramatic.. possibly …but there remains a significant gender gap in nursing which cannot be denied. According to the NMC in 2004 (quickest statistic I could find without searching through masses of statistics) males made up just 10.63% of the nursing population  (this increased to 10.69% in 2008) and in 2008 there were only 132 male midwives registered with the NMC.

 **EDIT** 20/10/16 : I have received updated statistics that since 2008 until January 2016 this number has increased to 10.72%

This is also not about me screaming sexism. I know that women face everyday sexism which is much worse. This is about liberating everyone. Removing the barriers that creates different between us. No more us and them. Just us. Why do I have to describe myself as a “male nurse” not just a “nurse”? Because the view is still that nursing is a woman’s speciality.

Part of the issue is the way that society is formed and socialises us into stereotypical gender roles. l and there are very specific views on what “masculinity” and “femininity” is. I think these constructs need to be challenged.  This sort of article, along with gendered stereotypical views on what a nurse is , can actively discourage male nurses from pursuing a career in nursing and also perpetuate the stereotype that nursing is a woman’s role. Gendered roles encourage gender segregation. It may seem like a little thing. But like the tiny snowflake that starts the avalanche, the more we sort out the small things like this the bigger issues won’t seem so challenging.

Another issue is the issue surrounding the increasing gender spectrum. Is the gendered role name “Sister” suitable for someone who identifies as Non-Binary or Gender Fluid? Gender neutrality is the way forward. It’s already being used but when a leading nursing article still has the same tone… the message isn’t being heard and more needs to be done.

As one of the most forward thinking and open, accepting professions out there… you’d think we’d start getting out own house in order.

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2 thoughts on “Gender in Nursing

  1. Are you in the RCN? Do you go to RCN Congress? I have been trying to get an item like this on the RCN Congress Agenda fora while. Cab we collaborate??

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