In the 19th century, the role of women was traditionally one of a homemaker. She was responsible for the care of the family and managed all aspects of their household. Women’s role as a domestic specialist has many similarities with the nurses’ roles. According to Hughes’ (1990), the ideology of domesticity rationalised nursing as a legitimate, if temporary, occupation for women. Nurses had difficulty identifying themselves as professionals due to the perception of the society of their nursing roles. “As a socially defined duty of women, caring for others was not seen by society as necessitating the specialised expertise that typified the work of a professional” (Hughes, 1990). This stressed the society’s perception that nursing is a women’s work by society.
Over the years, this idea has changed as the roles of women in society became more important and the role of nurses became more defined. While it is still largely dominated by women we have seen an increasing trend of male nurses joining the nursing profession, not only in Singapore but also worldwide. In reference to a Sunday Times article by Nur Dianah Suhaimi in 2009, she mentioned that out of the 18,400 active nurses in Singapore, 7.5% are male. There has also been an increase of male nurses in the profession over the years. Statistics showed that there were 998 male nurses active in the nursing workforce in 2001 and 1,363 in 2007 (Singapore Nursing Board [SNB], 2008).
More male students are also enrolling themselves in the nursing programmes offered by different institutions in Singapore, namely Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic and National University of Singapore (Suhaimi, 2009). In an excerpt of an interview with the director of the School of Health Sciences in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, one of the institutions that offers the diploma in nursing studies, she mentions how Singaporean parents are less hesitant about their sons taking up nursing (Phang, 2009). “Australia and the United Kingdom claim a 10 percent male nursing workforce, while recent statistics place the male nurse workforce in the United States at 6 percent, up from just 2.7 percent in 1980” (University of Pittsburgh, n. d.).
In my opinion, this is a positive change as men become more willing to take up the challenges of nursing. This change also further reiterates the changing view of nursing as a stereotypical female profession. Male nurses play a vital role in the profession. Besides having the skills and knowledge of nursing, their masculinity is an added incentive in restraining violent patients and assisting heavier patients in their ambulation. The change in view and statistics also reflect the change ideology that nurses no longer act as handmaidens and instead as an allied professional in healthcare.
As nursing has been perceived as a female dominated profession, feminism in the profession is inevitable. According to Bunting & Campbell (1990), feminism has been defined “as a world view that values women and that confronts systematic injustices based on gender.” Feminism began back in the late 1300s with Christine de Pisan being the first feminist who wrote about the feminist theory that transformed modern thinking of women’s roles in society. There were different views of feminism such as enlightened liberals, cultural feminism and radical feminism. The feminists...