Breaking Down the Gender Gap in Nursing

Nurses play a critical role in the healthcare system of nearly all countries and regions, but in recent years, a staffing shortage has shed light on the profession’s true impact on patients. In the UK, more nurses are now leaving the national register than joining, according to the Nursing and Midwifery Council, which has led to a shift in recruiting across the board. However, even with this apparent shortage, stereotypes of what a nurse looks like and who should fulfill the role has been slow to change.

Predominantly, nurses are women, and while men are equally equipped to perform the necessary tasks of nursing, many opt to pursue another career in medicine or outside the industry altogether. A research study conducted in the US highlights this truth, citing that despite men making up half of the population, only an estimated 10% make up the nursing career category. The disparity between women and men in the nursing field can be attributed to several factors, including myths that have long been held among male communities. To help shore up the staffing problem throughout the medical arena in the UK, it is necessary to take a closer look at why there are so few men in nursing, and what can be done to solve the ongoing issue.

Male Nursing Myths

The most pressing myth surrounding the nursing field is the falsity that the skills required to become a nurse correlate mostly to inherent female traits. This assumption and prejudice is based on the reality that nurses must have a compassionate, nurturing demeanor – something that men do not always obviously possess. However, men are just are likely to become strong nurses when these false assumptions are set aside.

In addition to the characteristics needed by nurses, men considering nursing as a career may face other myths, including that there is no opportunity for job growth or specialisation in the field. In truth, nurses, either male or female, have the potential to earn more credentials and achieve career success in a short period of time, particularly given the shortage of qualified nurses throughout the UK. Also, there is a similar myth that male nurses do not choose the career, but instead use it as a stepping stone for becoming a doctor. In most cases, male nurses are proud to do the work they do every day, offering quality care to the patients who need it most.

Another jarring myth surrounding men in nursing is the potential to earn a decent living on the job. While nurses do not make as much as more specialised medical professionals, the median salary for registered nurses working in the UK is £28,420, with the potential to earn more as additional years of experience are under their belt. Having the ability to provide life-saving care to hundreds of thousands of individuals over one’s career often offsets the lower salary, even for men.

Implications for the Future of Healthcare

Getting through the stereotypes and myths associated with men in nursing is a challenge both universities and healthcare facilities have battled for several years. This is most noticeable in the shortages of staffing across both private and public healthcare institutions in the UK and the US alike. A group of medical negligence specialists explains that because of staff shortages, nurses currently in the field are reaching their breaking points. A recent survey conducted by the Royal College of Nursing included responses to staffing questions among 30,000 nurses, highlighting widespread issues. Nearly 53% of the respondents shared that the quality of care for patients is suffering due to short-staffed healthcare facilities, mainly because the nurses on staff have a difficult time keeping up with the ever-growing list of tasks. Without adding more qualified nurses into the mix, patients have the potential to suffer unnecessarily.

Breaking through the gender gap in nursing has the ability to decrease these pressing issues for patients and current nurses in the field. But before that can take place, men need to recognise their career potential in the field of nursing, as well as dispel the myths currently plaguing the nursing environment. As universities, patient advocacy groups, and healthcare providers come together to work through these challenges, an increase in the number of male nurses may be the necessary solution to a growing problem in healthcare throughout the world.

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