Nursing was primarily a male profession throughout early history before becoming maternal in the beginning of the twentieth century during which the pattern of gender segregation and stereotyping begun. As members of religious orders, men used to provide nursing care to the sick, wounded and the dying as early as the fourth and fifth centuries. Until the mid-1800s, both male and female nurses were inspired by religious convictions and they lacked formal training. Professionalization of nursing contributed to a decline of men’s involvement in nursing.
Florence Nightingale and her supporters campaigned for an improved education and status for nurses. Additionally, Florence Nightingale’s reforms made it quite clear that nursing was a natural profession for women who were perceived to be naturally caring and nurturing; the requirements for a good nurse. This became a reflection of comfort with social stereotyping and gender segregation of her era in Victorian England. In the 1900s, men became nurses at their own social will although they were increasingly discriminated against by society, military and female nurses.
As a result, there was open and active gender discrimination within the profession. In the twentieth century, nursing schools incorporated an all-female residence dorm life and men were considered minority and second class citizens hence they were paid half the salary of female nurses. Male nurses fought for equality in the twentieth century and they were up against some of the same stereotypes and ignorant people that they are facing today. Men wrote letters to the Surgeon General and finally in 1949, the American Nursing Association helped them to be recognized as equals in the nursing society.
After this, male nurses flooded the military and entered the nursing profession in general (Bonair, 2009). Nursing experienced a great shift with the advent of Florence Nightingale. She achieved great fame in the mid 1800s as ‘the lady with the lamp’ after her service as a nurse in the Crimean war and though she spent much of her life house bound with illness, she campaigned for reforms in the nursing profession where she was a vocal component in the sanitation processes.
The British Army adopted many of her proposals and her ideas became standard practices throughout the world. Nightingale transformed the Army hospital in Scutari when she found out that the conditions there were appalling. The patients were kept in rooms with no blankets, indecent food, and dirty clothes. In these conditions, war wounds accounted for one out of six deaths in the army hospitals and the other main causes of deaths were diseases primarily cholera and typhoid.
She gave her views on reforming the military hospitals but the military officers and doctors objected them claiming that it was an attack on their professionalism. Although she received little attention from the military, she used her contacts to report the situation of the hospitals to the government of Scutari which gave her the task of organizing the Barracks hospitals (McDonald, 2001). By so doing, she managed to improve the quality of sanitation and the death rate of her patients was dramatically reduced in the military hospital.
In 1856, she returned to England and began a campaign to improve the quality of nursing in military hospitals. Nightingale revolutionized nursing and women’s roles within the profession making it to be seen as a maternal career rooted in spirituality and Victorian ideals. As a result, the nurturing aspects of nursing began to produce an image of feminity hence excluding men from nursing. Therefore, men were virtually barred from nursing education and ever since the ban was lifted, men have been struggling to regain their respect in the nursing profession.
As a result of the change in the way the nursing profession was viewed, men are becoming fewer and it may take approximately 100 years to change this gender biased view as it continues to be a battle (McDonald, 2001). Men’s equally active history in the nursing profession Even though women seem to outnumber men in the nursing profession today, it has not always been the case. This is because men in the military traditionally took responsibility of caring for the sick. The first school of nursing was founded around 250 B. C in India and it only accepted men.
This is because it was only men who were considered pure enough to touch patients. Therefore men were trained in all aspects of care which included cooking, bathing, feeding, massaging limbs, assisting in walking and movement. For many years, men were the main medical practitioners who were delivering care to patients and nursing the sick people back to health. Men were mostly involved in moving wounded soldiers off the field and taking care of their injuries. Women were hardly seen in the battle fields and the task of nursing naturally fell on other soldiers and men in general.
There was a small group of men in Rome who risked their lives by caring for the sick and burying the dead. These people were a Christian Brotherhood of the early church who set a precedent for early nursing practices. During the American civil war, there were so many nursing volunteers who cared for wounded soldiers in battle and both confederate and the Union armies had teams of nurses; male and females who contributed to the war effort (Joan, 2004). Though it was women who were perceived to be nurses, hundreds of men gave the much needed medical attention to the fallen soldiers.
In the modern society, nursing is considered a predominantly female profession and history points out that nurses are supposed to be female while doctors are males. Therefore, the nursing profession has been stereotyped to be dominantly female and because of this, very few male nurses can be found in the profession. Men who are involved in nursing have the fear of being viewed as unmanly hence they face the challenge of maintaining their masculinity in a female dominated profession.
Now that nursing is more identified with females than men, the males who engage in this type of work are at a bigger risk of being devalued and viewed as gay. This is a very negative label which causes stigma to the people involved. One of the implications of men entering the field of nursing is that the people around them become a constant reminder that they are different from other men. As a result, it is a challenge for males to continuously maintain their masculine image in a profession that challenges their masculinity.
The belief that nursing was an extension of a woman’s natural domestic role established nursing as a “woman’s” occupation of lower societal value than “man’s” occupations like medicine. This lack of value became reflected in lower salaries and status of professions labeled as “women work” and this certainly discouraged most men from pursuing the nursing field leading to the predominance of women. Some men also involved themselves in Asylum nursing where greater physical strength was required to restrain violent patients (Joan, 2004). Men’s identity in the nursing profession has been ruined by stereotypes.
For example, in instances which require the male nurses to get involved in procedures that require touching patients especially women, these actions are normally accompanied by suspicion which is more often sexual in nature. Moreover, male nurses who work in bedside positions that require intimate touching of patients face a lot of problems from stereotypes of gender who create complicated situations regarding sexual harassment. It is believed that men who practice nursing make a decision that goes against the gender norms of the society.
In addition, the relationships between the male and female nurses in the nursing profession show that their individual interest is stronger as compared to shared interests. For this reason, the men’s interest in patriarchy becomes questionable. Male nurses pay a price for their shared interests with females. This usually happens in terms of their experiences at the work places in relation to their compromised masculinity. Despite these, male nurses usually engage and subscribe to activities and practices which support masculinity in men who perform women’s studies.
In order to maintain masculinity, male nurses base their masculine roles on the separation of masculine and male from nursing which is seen as a profession that embodies feminine values and the subordinate female role in patriarchal society. Male nurses usually emphasize their work to be task oriented rather than people oriented in order to masculine it further. They go ahead to separate themselves from a care orientation which is perceived as a female trait. Even while working at the bedsides, male nurses use different caring styles and lift patients more often than their female colleagues.
It’s quite notable that it’s the job title and associated images that deter men from the profession and not the practice of nursing. Moreover, the uniforms are also another deterrent. As such, most male nurses opt for specialties where they don’t have to wear uniforms so that they do not resemble nurses. This situation reflects the contradiction and tension that exists in the lives of men in non-traditional occupations and it also gives insights that give people the ability to bridge the gap between understanding gender and the cultural background.
Men‘s capability to demonstrate necessary traits in nursing Although the nursing profession is considered to be female dominated, few males were practicing it decades ago. This is because 40 years back, there were male nurses but their jobs and tasks were restricted and limited. In the 60s, male nursing were not allowed to enter and assist in the delivery processes of children. In addition, they were also not allowed to attend to female patients. This is because a considerable number of patients became so violent or hostile in the presence of male nurses.
These patients also seemed uncomfortable to submit to intimate medical procedures making the male nurses frustrated by the fact that patients were not willing to confide in them( Fisher, 1999). Florence Nightingale felt that women were intrinsically nurses that they did not even require an education prior to nursing training and they were taught by doctors under an apprentice system. Therefore, the long history of men in nursing has been ignored hence contributing to the nursing’s feminine image.
Even today, men are sometimes excluded in nursing because nursing texts and articles frequently refer to women only as nurses. On the other hand, men are generally believed to be too insensitive to show empathy towards patients. This is because the nursing profession is associated with characteristics of caring, compassion, nurturing, submission and dependence which contrast with some male characteristics such as aggression and dominance. Therefore with these traits men are seen to be unable of delivering the required care to patients.
As a result most men don’t join nursing for the fear of being seen as unmanly (Bagilhole & Cross, 2002). Perception of men in nursing in modern society Currently the hurdles in the nursing profession are progressively being rooted out and the nursing environment is becoming friendlier to the males through support from their female colleagues. The nursing schools are also taking responsibility in eliminating the barriers through providing information for the students regarding males and among the most evident effects is the inclusion of males in the advertisement of nursing schools.
The Slogan “are you man enough to be a nurse” is being used to promote the interest of male to the profession and it has really attracted the media’s attention. This slogan indicates the transformation in the nursing profession and it’s helping in changing the public’s perception of the nursing profession. Today male nurses are attracted to the nursing field due to its high status and pay because most of them work in the intensive care unit, Emergency rooms and Flight Nurse.
More men are choosing nursing because of job availability and security while some of them are attracted by nursing’s emphasis on biological science and the desire to work in a humanistic field. Others join the profession with the aim of gaining jobs in administration and others do so because they cannot become doctors due to financial constraints and competition for places in medical schools. The nursing image is also changing from bed pan scrubber to doctors’ assistant and recruiters in the profession need male nurses so that they can fight for equal pay for the female nurses.
This is because it would be impossible to fight for equality if there are no men to measure the women’s pay against (Neighbors, 2010). Despite all discriminations, men in the nursing profession still embrace an advantage because of the traditional stereotype that men are always the bread winner of their families. This is because in most societies, women take the primary asks for childcare and housework leaving the men with a distinct benefit. Additionally, the major functions in nursing require some kind of technical knowledge, leadership and devotion.
All these traits are perceived to as being masculine. As a result, such notions about specific gender roles have altered the perception of men in nursing which allows them to feel more comfortable in the profession (Neighbors, 2010). The current growth of male nurses in the profession is a clear indication that it’s becoming a gender – independent profession and it’s not exclusive to females. Therefore men and women can work together for the welfare of the patients. In the modern society, there is always an assumption that females should be nurses while males should be the doctors.
This is a misconception created by the media like documentaries and movies. Fortunately, just as the society is evolving, the nursing profession has also evolved and the stereotypes are slowly being eliminated by a number of people hence the public perception regarding male nurses is changing. Although there are a number of people who have come to accept the idea of male nurses, there are still a number of barriers that must be encountered for the nursing profession to be fully gender-independent. Some of the obstacles include the following:
(a) Inaccessibility of delivery rooms by male nurses (b) A fraction of people who still perceive nursing to be a female profession (c)Some female nurses feel uncomfortable working with male nurses (d) Unequal opportunities for male nurses despite the growing interest of men to the profession (Neighbors, 2010). In conclusion, men should not look at the nursing profession as feminine because the world has changed and is civilized than it was previously. In the modern society, almost all jobs are perceived as gender independent.
Stereotypes that made it difficult for men to practice nursing are phasing out and the role of men in nursing is being appreciated all over the world. Female nurses should positively work with their male counterparts for the well being of the patients while putting their personal interests aside. References Bagilhole & Cross (2002). Girl dominated occupations for men. Retrieved on May 16, 2010 from http://www. informaworld. com/smpp/content~content=a741549880&db=all Bonair, J. (2009). Men in Nursing.
Retrieved on May 16, 2010 from http://findarticles. com/p/articles/mi_6880/is_3_10/ai_n32449200/ Fisher, M. (1999). Sex role traits of males in nursing. Contemporary nursing. Volume 8(3):65-71 Joan, E. (2004). Men nurses: A historical & feminist perspective. Journal of advanced nursing. Volume 47(3):321-328 McDonald, L. (2001). Florence Nightingale: Her family and life. Wilfrid Luarier University press. Canada. Neighbors, C. (2010). Men in female dominated profession. Retrieved on May 16, 2010 from http://studentnurse. tripod. com/men. html