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Scottish study recommends ‘rebranding’ of nursing to attract more male recruits

Only 8-10% of Scotland’s pre-registration nursing students are men

Nursing in Scotland has made poor progress in recruiting men to the profession, unlike other public services such as the police and fire brigade, Scottish researchers have found.


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Only 8-10% of the country’s 9,700 pre-registration nursing students are male – a proportion that does not reflect the population the profession serves, an RCN Scotland event at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) heard this week.

University of the West of Scotland school of health, nursing and midwifery senior lecturer James Taylor, and University of Dundee school of nursing and health sciences equality and diversity convenor Heather Whitford, called for a 'rebranding' of the profession. 

‘Public services that have improved their gender balance have found that a blend of genders has advantages,’ explained the authors, whose study examined the under-representation of men on pre-registration nursing programmes.

‘[A blend of genders] gives a range of options in terms of dealing with situations, increases the range of communication skills, and changes leadership styles and dynamics in the workforce. There is a huge pool of talent that is not being tapped into because of gender stereotypes.’

The study, which was published in May, included a literature review, focus groups with students and lecturers, and an online survey of secondary school career advisers.

The study authors said that despite finding that nursing was viewed by respondents as a worthwhile career for men – with guaranteed employment, travel and career development opportunities – the inherent view of society that nursing is a female profession was a powerful deterrent to male recruitment.

The study’s recommendations include:

  • 'Rebranding' nursing as gender-neutral and promoting the transferability of skills
  • Tasters for applicants to experience the reality of nursing
  • A marketing campaign to promote different routes into nursing and positive role models

RCN UK students’ committee Scotland representative Craig Davidson, who is a third-year nursing student at GCU, said the nursing workforce should be representative of the communities it serves in gender, ethnicity and sexual orientation.

'[We] should be part of an inclusive, diverse nursing workforce,' he said. 'We talk about how nursing should be person-centred and provide patient choice – but there are not [only] two genders.'

Earlier this year, RCN congress rejected a call to create a strategy to recruit more men to nursing on the grounds that the profession should be promoted to everyone, regardless of gender.


Further information

Read the study on under-representation of men on pre-registration nursing programmes


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