Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Essence of Helping: Significant Others and Nurses in Action Draw Men into Nursing

Academic journal article Contemporary Nurse : a Journal for the Australian Nursing Profession

The Essence of Helping: Significant Others and Nurses in Action Draw Men into Nursing

Article excerpt


Men remain a minority in nursing. According to an Australian Nursing and Midwifery Workforce report 2011, "the proportion of registered nurses who were men increased slightly between 2007 and 2011 (10.2% in 2011, up from 9.6% in 2007)" (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare [AIHW], 2012, p. 13). The phenomenon of fewer men than women choosing a nursing career is not an issue specific to the Australian nursing workforce. Nursing workforces in the European countries such as Norway along with the United States and Canada also remain female-dominated, with male registered nurse rates under 10% (Rajacich, Kane, Williston, & Cameron, 2013; Solbraekke, Solvoll, & Heggen, 2013; United States Census Bureau, 2013).

A nursing workforce challenge facing Australia is the predicted shortage of 109,490 nurses by 2025 (Health Workforce Australia (HWA), 2012). The emphasis is currently being placed on the retention of newly graduated registered nurses and the recruitment of males; ultimately to generate a sustainable nursing workforce to replace those retiring and leaving the nursing profession (AIHW, 2012; HWA, 2013).

Various studies have explored the reasons why men choose nursing, suggesting men approach a career in nursing in order to seek greater job satisfaction (Harding, 2009), and income security (Meadus & Twomey, 2007; Zamanzadeh et al., 2013). Other related reasons such as stable employment and advancement opportunities have all been reported (Ierardi, Fitzgerald, & Holland, 2010; MacWilliams, Schmidt, & Bleich, 2013). Moreover, the literature revealed that the gendered division of labour within the nursing profession still exists with men more prominent in certain areas such as mental health and specialties that highlighted the technical, and intensive nursing assessment and treatment areas such as critical care and emergency (Stott, 2007). Furthermore, technology-rich areas have been found to be an ideal career motivator for men (Rambur, Palumbo, McIntosh, Cohen, &Naud, 2011).

However, it is also postulated that there are issues around intimate touch nursing care along with the desire to avoid the more "female focused" perceived nursing areas (Stott, 2007). Therefore, it is not surprising to find that one-third of the male workforce is focused in the perceived low-touch less intimate nursing care areas of mental health followed by critical care and emergency units (AIHW, 2012). The higher percentage of Australian nurses who are male in these settings "may be perceived that these settings as more acceptable or masculine" (HWA, 2013, p. 15).

Rationale for this component of the study's first phase was to investigate the factors that influenced first year registered nurses who are male to choose nursing as a career. Thus opening the discussion on schemes that may expose males to the idea of nursing as a career in order to increase the future recruitment of men into nursing.


A qualitative methodological approach using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) was employed to investigate the reasons and the impetus for men who decide to undertake nursing. Moreover, IPA enhanced "the making sense" of how the individual perceive their experience by providing detailed interpretation of the understandings (Smith, Larkin, & Flowers, 2009).


Purposeful sampling used a snowballing technique where four participants obtained from the initial study information contact enabled the recruitment of a further five participants amongst their peers. These nine participants fitted the study's inclusion criteria of being male and newly graduated registered nurses about to commence their employment in various health settings in the metropolitan region of Western Australia. The health settings included mental health, emergency department, operating theatre, general medical and orthopaedic wards, and aged care. The participants' ages ranged from 20 to 32 years, with the mean age of 26 years. …

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