Nursing student Austin Bowering overheard a comment recently that brought a smile to his face.
He had just stepped off the elevator at the Janeway Children’s Hospital on the final day of his clinical rotation in pediatrics.
“It’s nice to see young men entering the profession,” whispered a pediatric nurse to her colleague, just as the elevator doors were closing.
It was a satisfying way to finish up his clinicals, says Mr. Bowering, who points out that pediatrics is not usually a big draw for men in nursing.
“There are certain specialties that aren’t as open to having males, pediatrics, maternity, obstetrics,” said the third-year nursing student, who is also president of the Faculty of Nursing’s Nursing Society. “These areas are seen as more traditionally female. But we need representation from various groups so we can serve all patient needs.”
Seeking role models
It’s one of the reasons he decided to start a local chapter of the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) (apparently there’s no similar organization in Canada) with the help of Dr. Robert Meadus, a professor at the Faculty of Nursing.
“We were fortunate to have Dr. Meadus for Therapeutic Communications in our first semester,” he said. “I reached out to him in that first year for information about research related to men in nursing.”
The long-time faculty member had extensive research about men in nursing; he also pointed out their history dates back to well before the days of Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War, to the brotherhoods and religious orders of ancient times.
Dr. Meadus is also a member of AAMN, the organization founded in the 1970s to promote the importance of bringing more men into the nursing profession.
“The groups are a good source of support for the students as they move through their program,” said Dr. Meadus, who’s been a registered nurse for more than 40 years and a professor at the faculty for almost 20. “They do stand out because of their gender, not only in their class but also in the clinical setting.”
“You realize you’re outnumbered, so you are looking for role models,” said Mr. Bowering. “It never really bothered me to be a minority, but I recognize that there’s a need to increase the number of male nursing students who enter the profession.”
Back in the late 1970s when Dr. Meadus graduated, about 1.5 per cent of nurses in Canada were men.
“It’s about eight per cent now,” said Dr. Meadus. “So very little has changed within that time.”
“There is a thriving group of men who have chosen nursing as a career.”
Mr. Bowering would like to give those numbers a healthy shot in the arm.
“In the future I’d like for us to go to various career fairs and schools when kids are trying to decide what they want to be when they grow up,” he said. “I want people to know that there is a thriving group of men who have chosen nursing as a career, that it’s not exclusive to women.”
It’s the kind of presentation he never received in high school. He wants that to change.
Mr. Bowering also points out that the new AAMIN chapter, perhaps the first of its kind for male nursing students in Canada, is not exclusive to men. It’s not an “old boys’ club,” he says.
“Our mission is to make sure that everyone is represented. The fact that there are lots of good male role models in the profession gives you something to aspire to and carry on that torch.”