Student voice

Missing: where have all the male nursing students gone?

Fewer men are applying to nursing courses and we need to do more to attract them into the profession, says new nursing student columnist Chris Steele

Research conducted by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service shows a decline in men applying for nursing degree courses in recent years. Across the UK’s nursing student population, only 10% are men and men account for 11% of students on children's nursing courses. 

Nursing is largely seen as a profession for women because they are more naturally caring, gentle and compassionate. This is true in some cases, however men can also have these qualities. It is archaic to assume that boys should aspire to take up stereotypically male careers.

Dangerous assumptions

The government has encouraged more women to pursue careers in traditionally male professions in the fields of science, technology, engineering and maths. Whereas in 2016, Conservative MP Andrea Leadsom expressed her caution over men who work in childcare because paedophiles are drawn to working with children. If people have profoundly unsettling views like this, what chance do male nurses have?

There are other contributing factors. Men who believe they should be the breadwinner may be put off by the salary. And old-fashioned job titles such as sister and matron could make men feel there is no scope for career development in the NHS. The lack of male role models in the caring professions for boys also contributes to the assumption that these roles belong to women.


It is time for change and education is the key. Young people need to be steered away from gender stereotypical career paths and schools and colleges should avoid gender stereotypes when providing career advice.

Careers in nursing should be made more attractive to men by putting them at the forefront of recruitment campaigns.

Above all, government must remember that while creating equality for women is fundamental, recognising and acting on male inequalities should be just as important.

Chris Steele is a second-year children’s nursing student, Edge Hill University, Lancashire

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