Sexism, gender stereotypes, and prejudice have been a common problem throughout the history of time, especially in women. It prevented women from having particular jobs, affected their salary and even barred them from voting.
However, in nursing, the gender stereotypes are the other way around.
Nursing has become an increasingly demanding health care profession, with women making up majority of the field. Only 11% of nurses identify as males, and while male nurses are becoming more common, there are still barriers holding many men back from pursuing a career in nursing.
What the Media says
Nursing is still seen as a female-dominated role, and part of this has to do with how the media portrays male nurses. Many TV series and movies depict nurses as females. Male nurses are either not shown at all, or they’re portrayed as a joke.
It has been ingrained in our brains from a young age that nurses should be females – from stories and movies to TV commercials and even a simple Google search. The media has a powerful impact on the way we live our lives, the opinions we have on certain matters, and has continued to feed the stereotype. For this reason, many people believe nurses to only be females. When male nurses are present, job performance, credibility and character are questioned.
On the other hand, nursing is often viewed as a nurturing profession. Women have always been regarded as nurturers and natural caregivers, while men are expected to be the breadwinners. Based on the traditional views of women being more nurturing than men, many people assume women are better as nurses than men would be.
This gender stereotype is seen to be more common in gynaecology, as women are more comfortable talking about female health concerns with another woman. Regardless, not trusting a man’s ability to care and demonstrating discomfort has contributed to the stigma of men in nursing.
Stereotypes that need to be shattered
Male nurses are failed doctors
Due to the fact that most nurses are female, and most doctors are male, some people may assume that any male nurse must have tried to become a doctor but didn’t make the cut. This stereotype is damaging because it treats nursing as inferior to being a doctor, when, in fact, both roles are necessary to patient care.
Nursing is the easier route
People believe that being a doctor is superior to being a nurse, and that being a nurse is easier than becoming a doctor. This leads to the stereotype that any male nurse was too lazy to try for a more rigorous health care career. However, nursing is a physically, mentally and emotionally demanding career. No matter the gender, it takes resilience and strength to make it as a nurse—and it is not automatically easier than any other health care profession.
These stereotypes make it difficult for male nurses to perform well, especially if patients are suspicious of their competence just because they’re male.
So where did this stereotype come from?
When the modern nursing profession was first developed during the Civil War and Spanish-American War, it was a male-dominated field. Up until the 19th century, almost all nurses were men and during many wars, it was men who tended the wounded. It wasn’t until World War 2 that the gender stereotype was primarily established, and nursing became a predominantly female profession due to shortages of money, room and tuition for schooling.
The need for more male nurses
Diversity in the workplace is important and allows different ideas and point of views to be considered. This is especially important in healthcare – providing different perspectives and ultimately improved patient care.
As with any industry, some people prefer to be provided with services from a specific gender. Depending on the situation or background, some patients may prefer to be taken care of by a male nurse over a female nurse.
If more men become nurses, these beliefs or stigmas will eventually start to fade, and will give other men the courage to pursue a nursing career.
Follow your path
The gender stereotypes within healthcare damage both men and women in the field. No matter which way you look at it, and no matter the timeline in history, sexism has always been a factor that prevents talented individuals from pursuing their preferred career. Don't let a gender stereotype hold you back from a rewarding career. Do the course, take the job, ignore the hatred and flourish in your passion for caring – whichever direction that might be!