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Florence Nightingale's legacy on the role of men in community nursing

02 June 2021
Volume 26 · Issue 6


Florence Nightingale is credited with reforming the profession of nursing, and her teachings allowed nursing to be perceived as an almost exclusively female career. However, the long history of men's role in nursing before Nightingale is frequently ignored. Males currently account for one in ten UK nurses, with that figure even less in community nursing, and the ones present receive differential treatment when it comes to hiring and promotion, career opportunities, and stigma associated with gender perceptions. This article attempts to gain a better understanding of the problems that face workforce planning with regards to the lack of men in community nursing.

Nursing is a profession historically described as ‘the supreme example of a traditionally women's field’ (Butter, 1989). The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) reported that, as of 2018, 10.7% of nurses were male, although this figure is increasing. The literature is in accord that men are an untapped resource in nursing (McLaughlin et al, 2010; Carte and Williams, 2017), and hiring more males is a viable solution to the global nursing shortage (McLaughlin et al, 2010). The shortage is especially prevalent in the community, where the number of nurses in 2018 had fallen to almost half its 2010 figure (RCN, 2018). Males are even less represented in this area, at less than 5% (Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI), 2019). The discrimination that male community nurses report they feel because of their gender is the highest, at 41%, compared with any other area of nursing (Launder, 2019). Consistent themes appear in the discussion of how to increase male presence in nursing, although some are more pertinent to community nursing. The QNI (2021) appears dedicated to improving inclusion in community nursing by increasing the number of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) staff. This drive should also extend to increasing male presence in community nursing.

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