The role of nurses in a clinical setting is crucial, which is demonstrated by the rising need in these professionals. Despite the society’s shift towards gender equality, nursing remains a predominantly female occupation. Unfortunately, although the public has made more of an effort in the recent years to be tolerant and open-minded, nurses are still regarded as motherly care-takers, which is why the field of nursing is viewed as “women’s domain.”
Due to the differences in female to male ratio in nursing and the persistence of flawed public conceptions about the job, men in nursing face discrimination, bias, and neglect. Thus, they become less likely to continue on working, which results in medical institutions having trouble with recruitment and retain many of male staff. This paper argues that gender discrimination in nursing does not only target women, but reverses back on men who are indeed affected by gender stereotypes, lack of guidance, as well as public perceptions. In addition, the purpose of the work is to not only examine the issue and analyze academic literature regarding the topic, but to formulate solutions to the issue of gender discrimination in nursing.
The Male Experience
In order to grasp the scope of gender discrimination in nursing, it is important to assess the nuances of the experience of male nurses. After all, men, at least outwardly, are usually welcome in nursing education programs and hospitals due to the quota each institution has to fill in an effort to demonstrate the diversity of their student body or staff. New male nursing professionals often expect to work hard, use grit knowledge, and care for people. Instead, what they usually encounter is a cloistered environment dominated by female professionals who cannot provide their male counterparts with the necessary guidance or a sense of relatability (Anthony 47).
Upon commuting to a nursing role at a healthcare facility, men face a number of intricate challenges, including being a minority, role strain, and the feelings of isolation and loneliness. According to Ann Strong Anthony, an Associate Dean for Nursing at Tulsa Community College, there are various reports of men displaying “uncertainty about the expectations of their peers and instructors in the clinical setting” (47). Anthony makes a great point in supporting the claim that with female peers, men are expected to take on assertive roles and display leadership skills.
Instructors, on the other hand, expect male nurses to volunteer in assisting with typical tasks requiring physical strength, while scrutinizing them to perfectly complete any given clinical assignment. For instance, Alex Miller notes that the female-dominated field of nursing is full of double standards, which he emphasizes by the use of personal testimonies (47). One of them describes a male nurse becoming a laughing stock based primarily on gender stereotypes. Prejudice and traditional perceptions of nursing as an occupation make it a mental challenge for male nurses to do their job correctly and remain motivated to grow as professionals.
Self-Worth and Self-Esteem
A massive aspect of being a male nursing practitioner is the decreased sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Men in nursing often report that they feel as if they do not belong in a setting where everyone is predominately female, which, in turn, makes them consider themselves outsiders (Buthelezi et al. 1519). These claims are supported by additional research such as the South African study by Moagi et al., which revealed the decline in the feeling of self-worth in male nursing students due to the increasing sense of isolation the longer they concluded their studies for an almost entirely female career (54).
It is apparent that these worries are a source of distress and often even delusion. After a while, male nurses do not consider themselves adequately prepared for an assignment or even fit for a nursing job. These findings cannot be ignored and should be addressed in order to ensure male nurses feel comfortable in an environment, which seems hesitant to accept them.
Another issue, which should be highlighted in the context of sex-based discrimination in the nursing field, is the rejection male nurses experience, particularly from female patients. Buthelezi et al. articulated that male nurses reported “female patients did not trust them to provide nursing care in the same way as female nurses can do” (1520). Buthelezi and his colleagues emphasize one of the biggest issues male nurses tend to face in a practical setting.
While the staff may be tolerant and understanding, patients are usually less open-minded in regards to male nurses because it makes them feel uncomfortable and insecure. The emotional impact of female patients verbalizing their rejection may scar male rising professionals and make them less likely to fully participate in any of the activities that follow. In addition, female patients showing a gender preference leads to an overall lack of opportunities for male nurses to become more competent through practice.
Gender Bias in Nursing Education
While the issues nursing students face have been examined earlier in the paper, it is important to gain more of an in-depth understanding of the failure of the nursing education system to put an end to gender bias. First, nursing textbooks rarely highlight the historical contributions of men into the nursing practice (Kouta and Kaite 60). Second, there is a lack of guidance in the appropriate use of touch provided to male nursing students (Kouta and Kaite 60).
Third, obstetric placements often imply a different set of requirements for each gender (Kouta and Kaite 60). Furthermore, research reveals that a nursing student’s gender influences the way they are taught, the learning and mentorship opportunities they are presented with, as well as the support they receive (Samuriwo et al. 158). From an academic perspective, men in nursing face a number of distinct challenges, all of which form a barrier to the male students’ entry into the career of a nurse.
Lack of Guidance and Leadership
Akin to men being the minority in nursing practice, the percentage of male professors in nursing education is low as well. According to Anthony, “the typical nursing facility member is a white female in her late 40s to early 50s” (48). Anthony expertly points out that the majority of the teaching staff is likely to have a worldview and attitudes different from those of the male student body. This leads to the subsequent issue of relating to a person of authority and choosing a role model for male nursing students.
Despite that, feminist academics often argue that male healthcare professionals simply cannot face discrimination based on gender since the majority of hospital executives, surgeons, university deans are male. Thus, male doctors and medical students always have someone in power who could potentially become a role model. However, when it comes to nursing, the situation is different. Male nursing students rarely have the ability to find a guide or a mentor who is sensitized enough to understand and empathize with the male experience in the field.
Solving the Issue through Systematic Change
Nursing will continue to be a foreign world to men unless blatant gender bias and sex-based discrimination in the field are efficiently addressed. First, the educational system requires reforms beyond the development of new marketing techniques to target male students. Nursing curriculum has to include more material about the contribution of men who have been systematically often erased from nursing history in a recent effort to feminize the occupation of a nurse (Anthony 48). According to Anthony, another solution may imply “programs such as establishing mentors between new nursing students and practicing men in nursing [, which] may decrease the social isolation men experience” (48).
Anthony is right as it would take systematic change and the development of specific programs to address the gender gap, sex-based stereotypes, and the neglect of men’s perceived attitudes. Beyond the classroom, it is imperative for men to have access to clinical practice designed specifically to prepare them to make female patients feel more comfortable (Buthelezi et al. 1522). The changes have to be implemented both in educational and clinical settings in order to maximize the effectiveness of the suggested proactive solutions.
In conclusion, it is crucial to acknowledge that men face sex-based discrimination in the nursing settings. Male nurses regularly experience bullying, higher expectations, and patient rejection, which leads to the feelings of alienation, lowered self-esteem, and an overall lack of confidence. Nursing institutions and hospitals have to address gender bias and discrimination against male professionals in a systematic manner.
With the increased likelihood that the shortage of nurses will grow as more of the middle-aged workforce will retire, it is crucial for healthcare agencies to recruit people who may not fit the traditional female stereotype of a nurse. Promotion of male nurses’ recruitment and retainment implies a series of well-structured changes implemented in educational and clinical environments in order to battle gender discrimination.
Anthony, Ann S. “Tear Down the Barriers of Gender Bias.” Men in Nursing, vol. 1, no. 4, 2006, pp. 43-49. Web.
Buthelezi, Sibusiso F., et al. “Clinical learning experiences of male nursing students in a Bachelor of Nursing programme: Strategies to overcome challenges.” Curationis, vol. 38, no. 2, 2015, pp. 1517-1523. NCBI. Web.
Kouta, Christiana, and Charis P. Kaite. “Gender Discrimination and Nursing: Α Literature Review.” Journal of Professional Nursing, vol. 27, no. 1, 2011, pp. 59-63. NCBI. Web.
Miller, Alex. “Gender Equality in Nursing?” Australian Nursing & Midwifery Journal, 2014, p. 47.
Moagi, Miriam, et al. “Student Nurses’ Experiences of the Clinical Psychiatric Learning Environment in an Education Institution.” Journal of Psychology in Africa, vol. 23, no. 2, 2013, pp. 359-362. Web.
Samuriwo, Ray, et al. “‘Man Up’: Medical Students’ Perceptions of Gender and Learning in Clinical Practice: A Qualitative Study.” Medical Education, vol. 54, 2020, pp. 150-161. Wiley. Web.