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Nursing: not necessarily women’s work

Recruitment effort pushes the profession as a ‘great option’ for young men, but it’s still very much a female domain.

BY LAURA RYCKEWAERT | APR 06 2010

Peter Kellett wants to set the record straight on male nurses: they aren’t all gay, they aren’t failed doctors, and they aren’t doing “women’s work.” But they are a rare species in Canada.

Mr. Kellett, an academic assistant in the University of Lethbridge’s nursing program and a practising registered nurse for the past 14 years, recently organized a second annual recruitment day for men in nursing at the university.

“For most young guys, when they’re thinking about what they’re going to do, I don’t think nursing’s on their radar,” says Mr. Kellett, who adds that “nursing is a great option.” He also believes having more men in the profession will add to its diversity and make it stronger.

The recruitment day allows attendees to ask questions and hear from men working in the field. Most young men really don’t understand what nurses do, says Mr. Kellett. “They think that nurses are just kind of in the handmaiden role, that they don’t make any decisions, and that they’re not as educated, but nothing could be further from the truth.”

According to the Canadian Nurses Association, in 2007 there were 275,000 registered nurses in the country, of whom 5.8 percent were men.

“A lot of people still very much think of gender in essentialized terms – this is what men do, this is what women do,” he says. “I think as society shifts its perspective on some of these things we’ll see more consideration of roles like nursing by men, and it may not seem such a strange choice.”

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