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Why are most nurses female?

(134 Posts)
ElderlyPerson Tue 20-Jul-21 22:12:08

Although nursing as a career choice is open to both females and males, the vast majority of nurses are female.

Why are most nurses female?

SueDonim Tue 20-Jul-21 22:20:25

Tradition, I reckon. It’s been slow to change although there are more males than there used to be.

More than half of doctors are now female, too.

Nannarose Tue 20-Jul-21 22:24:04

It's historical, although there was a stronger tradition of male nurses in the military.
Although there are more male nurses now, there are also more 'technical' posts that are often taken by men eg: operating theatre technicians who do tasks that in the past would have been done by theatre nurses.
And of course, there is the matter of pay.........

M0nica Tue 20-Jul-21 22:26:12

Tradition, nursing was seen as a caring profession and so came naturally to women. It used to be that most doctors were male and many medical schools had quotas for women students. Men came in and fixed things and then women did the nursing.

As SueDonim says doctoring is also now becoming a female profession. Whether this is because women who would have been nurses now apply to medical school, or whether it is because men, seeing all levels of careers in medecine being feminised are now choosing to enter different careers, is not clear.

VANECAM Tue 20-Jul-21 22:39:17

It would be interesting to know what the gender figures are of the current intake of student nurses and how the figures compare to past decades.

Hithere Tue 20-Jul-21 22:43:32

Obviously, due to gender roles

welbeck Wed 21-Jul-21 03:02:33

i think in UK about ten per cent of nurses are male.

Txquiltz Wed 21-Jul-21 05:11:13

Historically women have been viewed as caretakers. Early nurses were tasked with doing the care that included bodily fluids, etc. that no man would consider doing. Nuns were spared some of the disrespect by merit of being religious figures. Time passed and the females that cared for wounded in wars were thought to be “loose women”. History moves on and a few brave women (yes, Florence was one) dared to assert their mental skills and their ability to perform physical care and slowly, the transformation to today’s professional, highly trained nurses began. When I became a nurse in the sixties we were told by our professors to actively resist the “handmaiden” label. Men joined our ranks in larger numbers after working with nurses in the military and realizing it was a profession not limited by gender. Now retired, I am so proud of nurses today….professional, capable and either man or women.

Katie59 Wed 21-Jul-21 08:58:18

Short answer it’s in our genes and chromosomes
Females of all species are more nurturing more caring and more moved by empathy, ideal attributes in nursing and caring. That does not mean all women are like that, nor that all men are the opposite, not just nursing, customer care of all descriptions are staffed by predominantly women.

timetogo2016 Wed 21-Jul-21 09:09:32

Were the gentler sex,it`s in the genes.
That being said,my first encounter of a male nurse was in 1969 when i had my tonsils out,it felt a little strange,but that was my age i think,i also had a male nurse treat a burn on y arm in Burnham and he was a delight.

Chardy Wed 21-Jul-21 10:10:03

It's badly paid (and exhausting work), so men don't want to do it.

Elegran Wed 21-Jul-21 10:13:09

Nurses were traditionally women because women cared for helpless babies and children and so seemed by extension to be the obvious carers for the helpless sick and aged.

There was also the other tradition of "wise women" who knew the uses of medicinal herbs (and the appropriate spells and incantations) and could set broken bones.

It was customary too. until comparatively modern times, to exclude men from assisting at the purely female experience of childbirth,, where the helpers needed a knowledge of anatomy and physiology, painkillers, and psychology. (the men would - shock horror - see the private parts of a woman who was not their wife)

Sick nursing was regarded as an "unskilled" occupation, which could be carried out by anyone with a minimum of instruction. When my mother worked as cook in a fairly upmarket nursing home in the twenties and thirties, most of their nurses were recruited in rural Ireland and were, as she put it, "straight off the farm". Their concept of hygeine related more to the byre than to the ward. That was not unusual. In those days of limited education and opportunities for women, there was always an inexhaustable supply of young girls looking for unskilled employment.

It takes a long time for the association of an occupation with one sex or the other to change. How many female steeplejacks (or even Prime Ministers) have there been?

Baggs Wed 21-Jul-21 10:15:55

Biology plays a part. As biological baby feeders women slot naturally into caring roles without any help or assumptions from "the patriarchy". Slowly, on a biological time frame you might say, this is changing and people of both sexes have more choice about what work they do.

Interestingly, even in the most equal societies (Scandinavian), women still, on average, make choices based on what we might call traditional female roles.

Baggs Wed 21-Jul-21 10:16:30

Elegran said it even better smile

Elegran Wed 21-Jul-21 10:34:31

I could have added that young girls were then cheap to employ as well as plentiful in the labour market. So were (and still are) older women looking for work on night shifts and weekends that could be fitted in with the needs of their own families.

Baggs Wed 21-Jul-21 10:48:18

Elegran

I could have added that young girls were then cheap to employ as well as plentiful in the labour market. So were (and still are) older women looking for work on night shifts and weekends that could be fitted in with the needs of their own families.

Yes! When we had two small kids in a poor part of Edinburgh I remember a Labour Party member ranting about the City Council (Labour run) wanting to introduce public library opening times on Sundays. The Party member expressed outrage that it would destroy people's day of rest.

BUT, being a library assistant at our local library on a Sunday was the kind of job that would have suited me perfectly at that time. I wanted to be my kids' primary carer while they were little but we could have done with a bit more money because my husabnd's academic job at that time was not very well paid.

Baggs Wed 21-Jul-21 10:49:50

Meanwhile suoermarkets were open on Saundays throughout Scotland back then.

Doesn't hang together, does it?

Flexibility is key to progress.

Casdon Wed 21-Jul-21 10:49:53

There’s a major shortage of nurses, although the pay structures are much better than they were years ago. The percentage of men joining nursing hasn’t changed by more than a few percent in the last twenty years either. I wonder if it’s become a less attractive career because it is actually really hard, physically, mentally and emotionally, and people are choosing less draining options?

Baggs Wed 21-Jul-21 10:50:06

Typos! Gah!

Shelflife Wed 21-Jul-21 11:00:49

A good nurse is a good nurse regardless if gender , women are perceived as caring but that is not necessarily so . There have been some very cruel nurses and teachers throughout history. Male midwives are now appearing , in my day that was unheard of , but if a man is professional , and works with caring efficiency then why not ?

sodapop Wed 21-Jul-21 12:32:09

Chardy

It's badly paid (and exhausting work), so men don't want to do it.

Not a pleasant comment Chardy my ex husband was a nurse as are several male friends. There are quite a lot of men working in the field of mental health and as carers in residential homes.

Baggs Wed 21-Jul-21 12:53:17

Agreed, sodapop. Of the physically hardest and most disgusting jobs, men do the vast majority.

ElderlyPerson Wed 21-Jul-21 13:15:50

Shelflife

A good nurse is a good nurse regardless if gender , women are perceived as caring but that is not necessarily so . There have been some very cruel nurses and teachers throughout history. Male midwives are now appearing , in my day that was unheard of , but if a man is professional , and works with caring efficiency then why not ?

Why not is asked. Because it might make a lot of women uneasy having a male, even if he is a nurse, rather than a female. My view is that a woman needing a midwife (there is a gender clue in the job title!) should be asked if she is happy to have a male midwife and given the option to have a female midwife if she chooses to do so. Maybe that is the practice, I don't know. I remember that cervical cancer screening was organised and advertised as female doctors and nurses. Is that still the case? Maybe I am old-fashioned and out of touch with modern mainstream thinking, but it seems to me that if there really is care for a patient that she should be given a choice. I know that in everyday life there is the men's changing room and the women's changing room and so on, and that in hospital things are often different, yet there is a delicate balance between everyday and hospital and in my opinion that should not be disregarded.

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 21-Jul-21 13:26:11

When I was a nurse, early eighties, male nurses were quite a new thing. They weren’t allowed to do many procedures involving women. So putting them on bedpans, washing, without the consent of the patient. They did Obs and Gynae, but were limited, obviously.

They came into their own with things like heavy lifting, and making patients feel securely handled, more than say, a five foot tall female nurse.

As for the caring side, I always found them just as nurturing as the women. They had chosen that profession after all. There were some awful bullish female nurses, especially on night duty. Don’t know why.

I’ve no idea what men in nursing are like now, having had no experience. Generally though, I find men much easier to talk to than women these days, but that’s probably another thread.

DiscoDancer1975 Wed 21-Jul-21 13:28:23

Ps..as for midwives. Well, my personal opinion is they should all have given birth themselves. So men shouldn’t be doing that. It is just my opinion though.