On Saturday 19 November 2022, International Men’s Day celebrates worldwide the positive value men bring to the world, their families, and communities. Our Hospice at Home Manager, Nick Saunders, shares his experience as the only male nurse on our team:
“Ooh, mum! There’s a man come to see you!” This exclamation (or something like it) often heralds my arrival on a visit to a patient’s home. As the manager and only male nurse, working in the community with the Rowans Hospice at Home team, I have grown used to these expressions of mild surprise, upon seeing a man fulfilling such a role. On other occasions, people have simply assumed that I am a doctor. At least they didn’t think I’d come to read the gas meter!
Such reactions are prompted by the fact that, across the world, men occupy only ten percent of all nursing roles. This is a shame, to say the least, because men have a great deal to offer the profession. International Men’s Day is an initiative that, among other things, seeks to promote positive male role models and celebrate the contribution that men make to their communities. The under-representation of this contribution within nursing has persisted for decades, and there are many reasons why this remains the case. One of these is the stereotypical view that nursing is a profession best suited to women, with masculine qualities being seen as incompatible with caring skills. Yet I would argue that millions of men around the globe demonstrate these skills- loving, faithful husbands and partners; attentive, caring fathers and grandparents, and dedicated, generous volunteers – some of whom work at the Rowans Hospice Charity.
Misty-eyed TV dramas which depict all-female nursing teams visiting their patients by bicycle are good nostalgic fun but do not reflect the complexity of a modern community nurse’s role. It is a job that requires considerable technical and organisational skills, as well as resourcefulness, courage, and sensitivity. These are qualities possessed by all kinds of people, whatever their gender.
International Men’s Day also focuses on the particular health issues disproportionately affecting men, such as male cancers, industrial diseases, and suicide. Every one of these untimely deaths represents the loss of a son, father, or brother- a loved one, and nurses are among those at the forefront of the fight to address these issues.
I am enormously proud to be a part of Rowans Hospice Charity, and a nurse, which presents no conflict with my identity as a man. I continue to hope that nursing becomes a diverse, non-gendered and inclusive profession, seen as a valid career choice for men. I can attest that the experience of being a nurse has made me a more thoughtful, resilient, and stronger person, the useful by-product of helping and serving others.
I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
Hospice at Home Manager