Male nurses: how they’re changing perceptions and making a difference

We hear a lot about the gender imbalance in male-dominated professions like engineering and mining. But there is one crucial industry where that imbalance is reversed. Men make up just 11 per cent of the nursing workforce. So why are there so few male nurses?

We’ll explore the why, as well as what can we do to increase the number of male nurses in our hospitals. We’ll also chat to Jimmy Miller, a recent Charles Sturt grad, about his journey from uni to full-time nursing – and everything in between.

Why is there a lack of male nurses in our hospitals?

Despite the importance of male nurses, the nursing profession has historically been gender stereotypical with membership dominated by women. There appears to be stereotyping and a lack of understanding of what modern professional nursing really is.

A variety of reasons have traditionally deterred men from considering nursing as a career path. Things like the old-fashioned titles of matron and sister and the perception that caring for others is not seen as being a ‘tough’ or ‘macho’ role have contributed to these gendered stereotypes hanging around for so long.

Even though some parts of society still see nursing as a female profession, plenty of male nurses are keen to break this perception down. There are lots of nurses out there who will tell you that nursing is nothing like the movies or what you see on TV. In reality, it’s evidenced-based, highly technical – and you need to be highly skilled.

How Jimmy found his way to Charles Sturt – and a fulfilling career

“I left school without completing my HSC.  I completed an apprenticeship as a butcher before joining the mining industry, where I worked for 10 years. My wife Bianca and I decided to move our young family to Wagga Wagga to be closer to her family. I got a job at Wagga Base Hospital working as an operating room assistant. I really enjoyed my new working environment so I decided that the best way to secure my future was to further my studies. 

Jimmy Miller is one of those male nurses. He’s got a super-strong skill set, is able to perform under pressure – and he’s worked very hard to get to where he is. He’s a husband and a father to three small children and has made a life for himself in Wagga Wagga.

“Working in the operating theatres, I was able to see firsthand what nursing was all about and I found it very interesting.  I could see that there were lots of different fields of nursing and plenty of opportunities to develop your skills and advance your career. I just felt that studying nursing was a natural progression for me in my current role and with my wife Bianca being a high school maths teacher, we would have careers that we could really rely on if we ever needed to relocate in the future.”

Jimmy graduated from Charles Sturt in 2019 and was able to land himself a job before graduation as a registered nurse. He’s taking part in the Murrumbidgee Local Health Distract (LHD) GradStart program, spending six months on the medical ward and six months on the orthopaedic ward.

“Murrumbidgee LHD offered GradStart programs for 2020 and held interviews about three months before I was due to complete my degree. The program helps to student nurses transition to practitioners. Charles Sturt put a lot of work into preparing me for those interviews and I was offered the job a few weeks before the final results were released. I now work as a registered nurse on the medical ward at the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital as part of the program.”

Making a difference along the way

When it comes to gender, Jimmy believes that it’s becoming more and more of an even playing field.

“Although nursing is still generally a female-dominated profession, there are more and more male nurses entering the industry. Once you start working on the ward, gender doesn’t matter because it’s all about teamwork. Everyone just works together to ensure that the patients are being looked after.”

A combination of studying online with Charles Sturt and work placements allowed Jimmy to develop the knowledge and practical skills needed for his nursing career.

“I would definitely recommend Charles Sturt to study with. They have really prepared me well for a career in nursing and guided me to immediate employment. I found the course structure to be flexible and the online site easy to navigate. The lecturers at Charles Sturt are very approachable and only too happy to provide extra help when required.”

Keen to change the perception of nursing?

It starts with you. We’ve all heard there’s a shortage of nurses in Australia – and around the world. But wow, are we going to fill that workforce! Already, at Charles Sturt an average of almost 300 people graduate from our undergraduate nursing course each year. And you can be one of them.

There is always going to be a need for nurses. So set yourself up for a success and make yourself indispensable. There’s really no better time to lock yourself into an in-demand and fulfilling career.