Why don’t men want to go into nursing? Senior lecturer Christine Pollock on what the University is doing to attract more men to the field.

Date posted

24 August 2017


Last updated

19 March 2020

The number of men joining the profession is dropping, and in particular it is young male, school leavers who are least likely to entertain nursing as a career.

Choice is fundamental to our way of life, yet as a man – taking into account the full range of nursing disciplines – you have only around a one in ten chance of being nursed by a male.

The result is a mismatch between the cared for and the carers, a situation which it is in all of our interests to tackle.

A recent Audit Scotland report which revealed a third of nurses and midwives are now over the age of 50 further underlines the need to attract fresh talent, even though some careers advisers seem reluctant to give nursing the profile it deserves.

At the School of Health & Social Care at Edinburgh Napier University, we have been striving to redress the gender balance by opening men’s eyes to the benefits of a career in nursing.

Researchers have been working with student nurses and registered nurses to try to establish why they joined the profession, the barriers they have encountered and what might make nursing more attractive as a career.

In addition, we have been running open recruitment events to allow those attending to explore career opportunities, with a particular focus on encouraging men to join the profession.

The picture varies across disciplines. Mental health and learning disability nursing seem able to attract more men. But the number of male nurses drops in adult care and even more dramatically in child health nursing, and the overall trend, it seems, is downwards.

The Scottish Government have asked that all university programmes have more diversity in their recruited students, aiming for a 25/75 split between genders for all programmes of study.

Our School of Health & Social Care’s open recruitment events in October 2016 and February 2017 allowed participants to hear from practising male nurses from different areas of nursing about the opportunities and challenges of a career in nursing for men.  Potential students were able to see and take part in sessions covering a range of the clinical skills nurses practice.

The most successful part of the events, however, was the time set aside for chat and asking questions. This informal time allowed attendees to seek direct answers about issues which interested or concerned them as individuals.

These two events have yielded some success. Among those who attended were men who had never previously considered nursing as a career, and offers were made of places on our Bachelor of Nursing programme as a direct outcome.

The research element of our project to attract more men into nursing has also produced some interesting food for thought. Factors which men find attractive in nursing include the career and advancement opportunities. Nursing is also considered a rewarding profession, with the incentives including financial stability and the personal satisfaction which comes from caring for others.

The work of the School of Health & Social Care, supported by Edinburgh Napier’s Widening Access team, has also included hosting pupil visits from local primary and secondary schools to our sector leading Clinical Skills Centre, which boasts purpose-built learning environments, including wards, a neonatal room and a critical care unit.

These events, which give pupils a chance to speak to male nurse members of staff and to hear the story of their career, have sparked interest from male pupils who had never previously considered nursing as a career and who are now exploring it as a serious option.

However, the message that nursing offers an exciting and diverse career still needs to be more widely heard.

One way to do that is to address the need for sound, informed advice for our young people from their careers advisors, whether in school, college or elsewhere. For some advisors, it may come as a surprise that nursing is not, and has never been, a Further Education course for failed doctors.

To register as a nurse you need to have a degree, and nursing demands the highest standards of conduct and integrity. Candidates for nursing programmes in universities across the country are expected to have degree entry requirements or the equivalent.

One potential change in strategy might be to co-ordinate the information available to those influencing young people’s career choices so that it reflects the modern careers open to registered nurses, further encouraging diversity and inclusion.

To find out about nursing at Edinburgh Napier and the opportunities it offers please go to our School of Health & Social Care webpages: http://www.napier.ac.uk/about-us/our-schools/school-of-nursing-midwifery-and-social-care  For enquiries about our programmes please email enquiries@napier.ac.uk

This article first appeared in The Scotsman.