4 April 2019
I originally applied to read Chemistry at university. I thought I wanted to work in a lab and play with chemicals every day. Little did I know that, nearly nine years later, I would be sat writing a blog about being a nurse! Chemistry would have been a great option but a series of events meant that it was not possible for me to work in that industry.
I wish that I could tell you that I had a romantic story about becoming a nurse. It seemed that everyone on my course wanted to do it because they had a personal experience of caring for a loved one or being inspired by a nurse who looked after their nan, aunty, mum, child or friend. I, however, kind of fell into nursing. Sixth Form had been stressful for me and I didn't perform quite as well as I expected to. This meant that I had to come up with a plan B and work out what I wanted to do with my life. I had been working in a nursing home, part-time, and had just witnessed my mum qualifying as a children's nurse during my A-Levels. This sparked an idea: I know, I could become a nurse!
I applied during the 'Clearing' process and I was lucky enough to be accepted onto the Adult Nursing course at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge. I lived in Suffolk, so I decided to live at home and commute to uni and placement, a decision that I would often have mixed views on! My first day of university was probably similar to that of any other students, except that I was in a room of about 100 students, most of whom were female. I knew that nursing was a female dominated area but didn't realise quite how much this would be prevalent at university.
The Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) shows that only 11% of the register identify as male and what is worse is that this figure hasn't really changed in five years! I believe that the problem is self-perpetuating. There are few men in nursing which means that men are not encouraged to train and this ensures that the number remains pretty static. As an adult nurse, this is even more evident, with a large number of this 11% going into mental health nursing. I’m not sure what the issue is, to be honest. I love my job, I’m not embarrassed to say that I’m a nurse and I don't believe that your aptitude for the profession is linked to your gender.
I think that the concept of male or female traits is unhelpful when discussing nursing. The stereotype that caring is a female trait assumes that all women are capable of doing it and men aren't which is simply not true! What is it about wanting to provide the best treatment in a way that a patient feels comfortable that is 'feminine'? It is important for me to be caring for my patients and compassionate but that is combined with needing to be competent, applying technical knowledge and critically analysing interventions. Some days I will wash my patients' hair (not an easy task when someone is sedated and bed bound!) and others days I am squeezing bags of blood into a hemorrhaging patient in order to keep them alive. Yes, I am a caring person but that does not make me feminine! It is essential for people to understand what nursing involves and to move away from the image of the hat and pinny and onto a picture of the nurse supporting patients from their most vulnerable moment of illness and facilitating their journey throughout the health care setting.