Last December, journalist Kate Lunau reported in Maclean's magazine that the number of male nurses in Canada had doubled in just a decade. At first glance, this seems like a significant increase. But, as Lunau explains, this is not really the case. The increase in male enrolment at nursing schools in Canada pales in comparison to the increase in female enrolment in training programs for careers traditionally dominated by men, such as policing. Only six percent of the students enrolled in our nursing college programs are men. And yet, as Lunau explains, our country is facing a nursing shortage. This begs the question: what can nursing schools in Canada do to attract and retain more male students?
Attracting male students to nursing college
A 2004 study by the Bernard Hodes Group on "Men in Nursing" identifies many barriers to men enrolling in nursing school, including:
- the perception that other professions are more male-appropriate
- lack of information on nursing college for male high school students
- lack of male role models in nursing schools
The study also identifies some advantages of being a nurse, which can be used to attract men to nursing schools in Canada and abroad, notably:
- stable career path (especially in the context of a looming nursing shortage)
- good salary
- flexible schedule
- good benefits
The same study also makes some concrete suggestions for selling nursing college to male youth, for example:
- organizing more field trips for high school students to hospitals and healthcare facilities
- making high school students aware of mentorship and scholarship possibilities
But there are many other ways to make men aware of the benefits of nursing college, including advertising the wide range of forms that nursing can take. Some nursing college programs have even increased attendance by raising their selection criteria. By becoming more selective, they make their programs more desirable, to both men and women applicants.
Retaining male students
Even once a nursing college has successfully attracted a male student, problems can still arise. According to one Australian study, male nursing school students are more likely to drop out than their female counterparts.
Why might the attrition rate be higher for men at nursing college? According to the same Australian study: feelings of isolation. Interview subjects reported that they sometimes felt:
- nervous about speaking up at nursing college
- excluded from certain fields of practice (maternity, pediatric... )
- concerned about the lack of male role models
- make sure that male students enrolled at nursing college have a male mentor
- refrain from using gender-specific language (referring to nurses only as "she")
- control classroom dynamics to make sure that all students have a chance to speak up and be heard
- don't assume that male students are more comfortable with some things (e.g., taking off their shirt for a simulation) or less so with others (e.g., providing assistance to a labouring woman)
If nursing schools in Canada can find a way to bring up male enrollment in their programs, it just may stem the looming crisis in nursing.
Visit Mohawk College for more information on nursing schools in Canada. Rima Hammoudi is a Copywriter at Higher Education Marketing, a leading Web marketing firm specializing in Google Analytics, Education Lead Generation, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Mobile SMS Alerts, Social Media Marketing and Pay Per Click Marketing, among other Web marketing services and tools.