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More men please!

Kirstie Stott, director of the Inspiring Leaders Network, flips the gender balance debate on its head and asks: why aren’t there more male nurses?

As an advocate for gender equality, I was recently struck by the NHS Provider Board report from NHS Improvement, which is an interesting but not surprising read.

As someone who strongly believes in gender balanced boards and being representative of the communities they serve, it was somewhat unusual to find myself drawn more to the issues of the lack of men than women and the gender and role composition on boards.

The report evidenced that most director of nursing posts are held by women – not surprising given that women form 90% of the nursing workforce. In 2017, the NMC reported that men make up just short of 11% of registered nursing, and this doesn't look like it sets to change since there has been only a 0.1% rise in the number of men on the NMC register, and men entering university to study nursing doesn't look more promising.

Surely this makes nursing one of the most gender separated professions in the UK?

We know that recruitment and retention within healthcare is a global challenge, and that each day more nurses leave the UK register. Figures from 2017 showed that there had been 33,000 nurses leave and that this number now outweighs the number of joiners each year, which was approx. 29,025 in the same year.

In 2017, the register had just over 690,000 nurses and midwives on it. With just short of only 11% (75,000) nurses being male, surely this means that there is a huge wealth of untapped potential in the form of men out there!

Not only having more of a serious conversation about attracting men into the profession will boost numbers, but will also add masses of value as we know that having a diverse workforce will yield better results and outcomes, support better team dynamics, especially when morale is low and challenge traditional ways of working, and particularly in a profession that has been female dominant since its inception.

So, what are the issues? And why don't we see more focus on recruiting men into the profession? There is so much great work being done in other industries such as tech and stem to bridge the gap in gender diversity, and I believe we can learn so much.

Let’s get into schools early and encourage boys to aspire to a caring profession! I would love to see more male driven nursing and midwifery campaigns, and men as role models for the profession going out and promoting the great work they do.

Maybe having more men in the profession will also support the wider issues of gender equality at the top, because the NHS workforce is 77% female. Adding more men at middle and junior levels could surely be a good thing in ensuring the overall workforce is representative of those communities we serve?


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