Can men care?

Can men care?

Nov 17, 2021 | Reflective practice

A male nurse’s reflection on the way that men in nursing perceive care 

It is well known that few men choose nursing as a profession. On average, about 10 percent of nurses are men, and in some countries, this is less than two percent1. A recent article1 about the motivations for men to choose nursing as a career inspired me to reflect on why I chose to be one of the 10 percent.

The research was conducted in Poland where less than two percent of nurses are men, it used semi-structured interviews of 17 licensed male nurses to elicit the reasons why these Polish men decided to become nurses. The reasons uncovered revealed that for these men, while some came to nursing by accident, and some had always wanted to be a nurse or to work in healthcare, not necessarily nursing, many reported pragmatic reasons for becoming a nurse, such as employment security, travel and access to healthcare. 

For me, the initial driver to become a nurse was that of security. This feels like a bit of a confession of sorts, but the research article suggests that I am not alone in this, as a man or for either genders entering nursing. At the time of choosing nursing as a career I was already studying a dual business – arts degree majoring in marketing and psychology but unsure which field I wanted to pursue. I had a number of female friends studying nursing and the proposition of a defined career pathway and good employment prospects appealed to me.

What I discovered once I did my first practical placement as a student nurse was that I loved being with people and supporting them. There is a connection, a shared experience and a wonderful feeling of being able to support someone when they are not at their best. As a nurse now for more than 17 years, I can say that I truly love caring for people and have loved every role I have held within nursing.

What is interesting, and highlighted in the research article, is that female nurses emphasise the caring aspect of nursing much more than male nurses. Male nurses tend to have a broader definition of what caring is within nursing and can see the caring aspect as fundamental to the role but do not emphasise it. This lack of emphasis on the caring aspect of nursing by male nurses may be due to caring being seen as more of a feminine rather than masculine characteristic. 

For me, this is an interesting reflection, as the aspect of nursing that I enjoy most is the caring and connection with people, yet this is given the least emphasis by men, likely because they don’t want to be seen as feminine. This provides a real opportunity to start the discussion and to breakdown stereotypes about masculinity, what it is to be a man and what it means to care for someone else and to care for ourselves as men.

Are we as men not allowing ourselves to truly self-care or acknowledge that we can care for another because of a stereotype associated with caring? If so, how much are we missing out on, and how much is our own health suffering with this lack of self-care? 

1.         Kluczynska U. Motives for choosing and resigning from nursing by men and the definition of masculinity: a qualitative study. J Adv Nurs. 2016.

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