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Men entering nursing: Has anything changed?

Ko te tāne ka urutomo ki te mahi tapuhi: He aha ngā mea hou?

Isabel Jamieson, RN, MN, CertAT, PhD, Principal Lecturer, Ara Institute of Canterbury/Senior Lecturer, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ
Thomas Harding, RN, PhD, Senior Lecturer, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ
John Withington, RN, PGDip, Lecturer, Ara Institute of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ
Dianne Hudson, RN, DTLT, BN, MHSc, Lecturer, Ara Institute of Canterbury, Christchurch, NZ

Reference:  Jamieson, I., Harding, T., Withington, J., & Hudson, D. (2019).  Men entering nursing: Has anything changed? Nursing Praxis in New Zealand, 35(2), 18-29.

Since the 1950s there has been an increased acceptance of women’s entry into occupations long associated with men, but a corresponding movement of men into ‘female’ occupations is not evident.  Two persistent gender-based discourses impacting on nursing have been discussed at length in the literature as obstacles to men undertaking nursing: its construction as women’s work and the stereotyping of men who are nurses as homosexual. The aim of this study was to describe male nursing students’ understanding of the gender stereotypes associated with nursing. A qualitative descriptive methodology was used where semi-structured interviews with eight men enrolled in a graduate entry nursing programme were undertaken and thematic analysis conducted. Key findings reveal that participants identified two predominant gender scripts: nursing as women’s work and the stereotyping of men who are nurses as homosexual. Two associated themes also evident were being disquieted by stereotypes that negatively characterise their career choice and resistance through non-subscription to the script of normative masculinity. Individual men demonstrate ambivalence or resistance to hegemonic masculinity and actively engage in ‘undoing’ gender. However, the same barriers to men’s engagement in nursing, identified and discussed since the 1960s, remain potent. Research into and evaluation of societal change strategies are now required if the barriers imposed by gender stereotyping of nursing are to be dismantled.