The preconceived notion of nursing being a women’s only field is something that I have always found to be inappropriate. To my belief, there is a need for male nurses as they make important contributions to the team, profession and organization as well. They not only help with laborious tasks but also support the team beyond work. I say this because I have seen how helpful male nurses can be, especially during times of crisis. In 2018 when the entire state was hit by the historical Chennai floods and the hospital was submerged 5 feet underwater inside and 8 feet around the hospital. There was no electricity to keep the machines and instruments running. It was crucial to evacuate the patients from the hospital to a safer place. At that time, it was the male nurses who came forward and gave confidence to me as a Director Of Nursing to lead the evacuation. They played a herculean task to ensure safe transportation of patients from the hospital and evacuated them on boats to ensure that they reach a safer place. Only because of the help of male nurses, we could ensure that there were no casualties. The presence of mind of one of our nurses in evacuating a patient saved his life on the boat. If it were someone else, any rescue team, we may have lost the patient on the commute, but because there was a nurse, he could save him.
Having male nurses in the team has always been seen as a strength. They not only help the female nurses with work, but also offer them emotional support and assistance when anybody misbehaves with them. The concerns of my male team members are not just limited to the hospital. They ensure their female teammates’ safety beyond work as well. They always offer to drop them home after late shifts, just to be sure that all the women of the team have reached homes safely.
I have been in the industry for over 3 decades and I do not consider internal bias or discrimination to be the reason for men not wanting to be a part of the field. As I mentioned earlier, there is no bias within the team but the prejudice of the society. There are no nursing colleges in India that offer an equal or a high number of seats to men. Most of the colleges do not admit men for nursing at all. This is, perhaps, the biggest reason why men do not enter the field because there is no source of knowledge, to begin with. Apart from that, the assumption of this being a women-dominated field, based on the fact that modern nursing was founded by Florence Nightingale, a woman, is also a contributing factor. In addition, the assumptions of low pay and almost no recognition are also certain crucial factors that stop men from entering the nursing niche. But the biggest reason why India suffers from a deficiency of male nurses is the perception of society, relatives and the people around them, towards nursing. Since nursing is struggling to be accepted to be a reputable, gender unbiased career, makes it difficult for men to be a part of it, although there is a great demand and opportunity for growth for men in the field.
Many of you must think that, how did nursing a field so intimately related to medicine, become a women-dominated profession when women were not allowed to have an education just a few decades ago. The answer is quite interesting. During the wars, it was the men who nursed the injured soldiers, mostly without any formal training in medicine, and women were restricted to play the roles of midwives and child-birthing processes. With time, the demand for men increased in the army and other sectors that needed manpower and muscular strengths. Therefore, the role of caring for the sick came down to most women. In addition, the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, became the role model for most women to get into nursing and pursue it as a career. Since initially, nursing meant to just take care of the patients and tend to their needs, it did not need high education, unlike today. Therefore, women did not face much resistance and slowly, nursing grew to become a sector that had way more women than men.
Today, nursing is not just meant for caring but also curing and it runs parallel to the medical field and partners in delivering business goals of the organization. Nurses need to be highly educated and trained to provide good care and plan the treatment with the multi-disciplinary team. It is also the first line of care, especially in cases or trauma and accidents, as nurses need to go to the accident site and bring the patient to the hospital in an ambulance. Therefore, we need more men in nursing as it requires a lot of strength to transfer patients, lift them up and do such other laborious tasks.
According to me, the way to put an end to this bias in the eyes of society is by providing equal opportunities to both men to women who desire to enter the field of nursing. Colleges and universities should have an equal number of seats for male aspirants. Hospitals must make it a point to include nurses in governance and development teams, make them a part of hospital planning, include their views in developing policies, etc., it will not only help the hospital run better, but will also help the society understand how nursing is not a female dominant career anymore, it is way more than just helping the doctors. When given importance and respect, and been valued will surely attract more men to the field. Nursing profession needs heterogeneity to run smoothly which creates a huge demand for men in the field. It also provides growth opportunities and is a stable career as nursing is not only limited to the hospitals any more but even to flight nursing, submarine nursing, military nursing, robotic nursing, tele nursing, space nursing, school health nursing and industrial nursing etc... Another reason why I say there is a great demand is that even the male patients are more comfortable when male nurses render personalized care for them, especially when it involves caring for patients with andrological, urological and support activities of daily living. This also protects the right of the female nurses who have been historically subjected to meeting the personal hygienic needs of the male patients.
Nursing is a noble profession and equal opportunities should be provided to both men to women. There should be a gender-sensitive approach including equal opportunities and respect. In fact, it must be open to all genders and not be limited to a specific gender. The profession requires a great deal of empathy, and according to me, any human being capable of being empathetic towards the pain of others and who is committed to helping others can and should be given the chance to pursue nursing everywhere in this country. Let us bring a new norm of brining more male nurses in nursing and consider involving transgender. It’s high time we see people as humans first, see their caliber and not judge them or snatch an opportunity away from them just because they were born a certain way. There should be a need to let people grow based on the given opportunities. Let’s make inclusion our mantra and use the strengths of every human being to make this nation a superpower.
By Dr Jothi Clara. J. Micheal
Director of Nursing, India Operations Division, IHH Healthcare India (Gleneagles Global Hospitals Group and Continental Hospitals)