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The health sector needs more male nurses, but has struggled to attract men into what has traditionally been a female domain. While up to 50% of those enrolling to become doctors are now reportedly women, only 10% or less of nursing students are male.
However, a new dual, fast track graduate programme offered by Ara and University of Canterbury (UC) seems to be attracting more male students. So what is it about this qualification that works for men?
Ara nursing lecturer and researcher Dr Isabel Jamieson and her team are conducting a suite of research projects connected to the new programme - the combined Masters of Health Science at UC and Bachelor of Nursing at Ara. It is available to graduates of a health-related degree and is “utterly unique,” according to Jamieson, “especially in the way it bridges two organisations and qualifications”. The findings will be presented at the Ara Research Week, 14 – 18 August.
Jamieson suspects that prior academic achievement gives the men who enrol in the programme more freedom to choose their own path. “I guess that because these men already have degrees, they have proven themselves in the academic world and now they feel they can go and do what they want to do career wise”.
“Some of these men have already undertaken what could be identified as quite masculine fields of work, such as on building sites and in farm work. One of these participants said that both his parents are nurses, but he didn’t consider it till much later in his worklife. While it is socially acceptable for girls to say they want to be a nurse, it is probably not so acceptable for boys.”
And yet nursing is “a tough job”, Jamieson says. “It is physically, mentally and academically demanding. Nurses need to be able to combine the art and science of nursing to do the job. They are balancing lots of information all the time”.
“I think the some of the general public underestimate what it takes to become a Registered Nurse. RN’s need the personal attributes of kindness and caring, as well as clinical knowledge of health issues, disease processes, pathophysiology, coupled with a social/political understanding of health politics to say nothing of the plethora of questions arising from what a patient has just read on the internet or information provided to them from the lastest app downloaded to their smart phones.”
The challenges of people living longer with more health needs, budget restraints in the sector and the well-publicised mental health challenges in Canterbury makes for a complex sector to work in, but Jamieson’s team found that the men in their study sample were as driven as female nurses to care for others.
While men are very much a minority group in nursing, they are viewed as very likely to be promoted to managerial positions. “However the men we interviewed, on the whole they didn’t want to be managers. They clearly want to be providing direct patient care.”
Diversity in the workforce is important. Nurses should represent the population they care for, and men bring different qualities to the job, Jamieson says. “They can be very pragmatic, which is very useful. If men are dealing with a male patient, the male psyche is useful, the language and understanding a man’s worldview.”
The research, which was recently published in Nurse Education in Practice journal (Attracting men to nursing: is graduate entry an answer?) was conducted with Ara nursing lecturer colleagues John Withington and Dianne Hudson, and UC colleagues Thomas Harding and Alison Dixon.
Jamieson notes that this research is a small qualitative piece of work with a sample of eight interviewees, replicating a study from Monash University in Australia which runs a similar graduate programme. The team will explore further what the male students think and how they feel about nursing.
Ara Research Week is on 14 – 18 August. See http://www.ara.ac.nz/news-and-events/upcoming-events/research-week