While nursing has traditionally been a career for women, more and more men are training as nurses. We spoke to Danny, a nurse from Northern Ireland, about his experience being a male in nursing.
Thanks for speaking to us, Danny. Can you tell us why you went into nursing?
I didn’t go into nursing straight from school. When I was in my mid-twenties, I decided I wanted to retrain as a nurse. I had done some volunteering with St John’s Ambulance Service, which I had enjoyed, so I started researching the qualifications that I would need.
First I did an A-level in Biology, and then got a job as a Health Care Assistant. HCAs (or auxiliaries) work alongside nurses and midwives, so it gave me the chance to see what the job really involved.
I applied for a degree course at the University of Ulster, which meant 3 years full-time study, with no summer break. Half of the course was spent on wards with trained nurses as mentors, so there was a lot of hands-on experience.
Were there many men in the class?
There were around 100 people in the class, and only five men. It didn’t put me off, because I knew that I would enjoy the work, and that it would lead to a good career.
Was it something that you might have considered when you left school, if someone had suggested it?
I like to think that if I’d taken a look at nursing when I was in school that I might have considered it as a career, but it wasn’t something that occurred to me. Nursing isn’t something that would normally jump out at an 18 year old guy.
I would encourage other people to look at it – and we are seeing more young men coming through now. There is an increase in males looking at nursing as a career.
How was the reaction from family and friends?
Friends and families were very supportive. Some of my friends were a bit shocked but very supportive of my plan. My mum said that she would have loved to have been a nurse.
How is it in your working life? Are you as accepted as your female counterparts?
I’ve never felt unaccepted by colleagues. There are 3 guys on the ward I work on, myself and two male nursing auxiliaries, out of around 30 staff. This is probably about normal ratio of men to women in our hospital.
What about your patients?
It has come up a couple of times, that for certain aspects of their personal care, patients would prefer to be nursed by a woman. It is completely understandable, and that is the patient’s choice to make. The vast majority of times, it isn’t an issue at all. I’ve had a few cases where men come to me to discuss issues that they wouldn’t be comfortable talking about with a female nurse.
Do you get mistaken for the doctor, because you are a man?
Yes, get called ‘Doctor’ occasionally, and I also get asked if I’d like to continue to study, to go on and be a doctor. They don’t realise, that I enjoy being a nurse, that it is a job that fulfills me, and is a profession in itself.
Is there anything that you don’t really like about nursing?
Not really. Before I started training, I got some experience of nursing, doing a similar role so I had a good idea of what to expect. It is a very fulfilling career, and I would encourage any young man to go for it.
It is amazing, to have people come into hospital in need of medical attention, and some kind of nursing care, and to help them get back on their feet. Sometimes patients will come back a couple of weeks or months after they left the ward, and to see them looking a lot better than they were when they were admitted – it is lovely.
What is it like working around the clock?
The ward that I work on, we do about six weeks of days, then two weeks of nights. We do two long days and two half-days a week, so we have 3 days a week off. The days can be quite long, up to about 13 hours, which means that we see all aspects of a patients day, you are getting them up in the morning, and seeing them through the day, and can see how their care is progressing.
Is there on-going training on the job?
Yes, the Healthcare Trust that I work for, South Eastern Trust, NI, is very proactive in helping us get further qualifications. We get sent on training courses to the Queen’s University in Belfast, which is paid by the trust. So there is a lot of further educational opportunity, to develop our knowledge base.
When you seen yourself in 15 years, do you see yourself as a nurse?
Definitely. There is so much variety in nursing, so it is possible to go down a different pathway, such as the demand for specialist nurses eg for heart conditions, and cardiac rehab. There are lots of areas for career progression. It is a challenging job but incredibly rewarding. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.
Thanks for talking to us, Danny.