An Exploratory Study of Student Nurses' Perceptions of Gender

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An Exploratory Study of Student Nurses' Perceptions of Gender Though they may be half a world away, nursing schools in India face problems similar to those in the United States when it comes to recruiting men. The results of this research of nursing students in Pondicherry, India, may surprise you. by S. Sridevy, B.S.N., M.S.N., M.A., M.Phil.

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Though they may be half a world away, nursing schools in India face problems similar to those in the United States when it comes to recruiting men. The following study sought to discern the opinions of 78 senior nursing students studying in and around Pondicherry, India, regarding gender roles in their field. It aimed to determine the following:

1. Whether nursing students have different opinions of what professional roles male and female nurses should occupy.

2. Whether gender affects the image and status of the nursing profession.

The results of the survey indicated that most of the nursing students prefer men to occupy administrative or teaching positions. Additionally, there were statistically significant results between female and male students' perceptions surrounding the effect of males on the image and status of nursing. These findings may impact local nursing education recruitment programs for both men and women, and perhaps the health service organization as a whole.

Men in nursing

Though they still represent a slim minority, men are increasingly pursuing careers in nursing, attracted by abundant job opportunities, good salaries, and the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives. This is in no small part due to the fact that the nursing profession has worked for years to dispel misconceptions surrounding men in this female-dominated field.

What is interesting about today's perceptions of gender in nursing is that until the days of Florence Nightingale in the late 19th century, nursing was a male-dominated profession.1 Nightingale considered nursing a suitable job for women because it was an extension of their domestic roles. Her image of the nurse as nurturing, domestic, humble, and self-sacrificing became prevalent. Qualities associated with women, like compassion and dependency, align with those often attributed to nurses.2 In modern times, the social construction of the role of a nurse has typically meant a caring, hardworking woman. Nursing, in the span of Nightingale's lifetime, became identified as a profession deeply embedded in the female gender.3

On the other side of the gender divide, men who enter nursing may still face questions about their masculinity or sexuality. Sociologists describe sex role socialization as "instrumental" for men and "expressive" for women. The characteristics of instrumental socialization include aggression and the ability to compete, lead, and wield power to accomplish tasks. Expressive socialization includes learning to nurture and be sensitive to needs of others. Many female dominated positions, including nursing, have difficulty attracting male recruits. This can be attributed in part to issues such as status and pay, but also to the gender stereotyping of the profession. Although the number of males in nursing has increased in recent years, the underlying feminization of nursing is still an important issue.4 Persistent and outdated gender stereotypes are a big part of the problem. [pic]

Today, men still only make up between 5%–10% of the nursing workforce in the United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. Although it's a small percentage, today's statistics actually represent an over 20% increase in the number of male nurses in the past two decades.5There are many supposed reasons for the lack of men in nursing. For example, if a man's peers consider nursing emasculating, he has a disincentive for becoming a nurse.6Another reason suggested is the lower economic status associated with the nursing field.3 However, the...
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