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Recognising the gender gap – getting more men into nursing

15th July 2020

Martin Bollard is Associate Professor and Project Manager of the HealthPro project (Careers in Healthcare), at the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, Coventry University. He tells us why it’s so important to recognise the gender gap and get more men into health professions.

Image of a man in a green shirt and a white background

Since registering as a nurse in 1989, I have always been aware how the profession has attracted more women than men. But why in this supposedly more enlightened stage of the 21st century is this still the case?

On a personal level, I can remember beginning my training with friends saying he is going to become a male nurse – illustrating the gendered distinction early on for me.

During my training there were times I felt I was treated differently. Strong evidence exists showing men in their nursing careers are treated differently to women. Just look at the disproportionate amount that men earn and the extent to which they reach more senior positions than women.

Explanations for this refer to vertical gender segregation. This maintains that even when institutions are dominated by women, men benefit from an organisational logic which privileges the characteristics associated with being male, such as assertiveness, leadership and rational thought (see Acker, 1990).

Thirty years on, these masculine attributes seem out of kilter.

It’s more than just caring and applying practical skills. It involves distilling high levels of evidence to make safe, intuitive and informed practice decisions, leading and working alongside others in very dynamic and fast paced environments.

The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed us all to the dynamic and challenging work situations currently facing nursing and health professions. Why wouldn’t more men want to join the health professional family and be celebrated by a regular worldwide Thursday applause?

Recognising the gender gap in nursing and allied health professionals, a team at Coventry University secured funding from the Office for Students to explore different marketing methods to attract more males into the diverse range of nursing and health careers.

HealthPro has developed 14 bespoke YouTube videos capturing this complexity and showing why individual men have chosen nursing and healthcare as a second career. The men briefly explain their transferable skills and how these have flourished in their chosen health care profession.

We are also developing apps with simulated skill scenarios, virtual reality and gamification that we hope will attract more men into nursing and health career.

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