Well, I love a cheeky selfie, but the photo I have chosen for today’s post is not one – although the selfie of my rainbow glitter beard from last weekend’s Pride Glasgow march I took part in with RCN Greater Glasgow Branch comes a very close second. Instead, I have chosen the below.
This was me speaking at my first ever RCN Congress this May in Belfast. I was a first-time speaker at Congress; and although I may have been an actor for years, it is still petrifying to get up and speak as yourself, not hiding behind a character. Particularly so when it is about a subject you are passionate about, and in this case, the resolution about developing and promoting a strategy to recruit more men into nursing is one that is very dear to my heart. After all, it is one of the main reasons I put myself forward for the RCN UK Students’ Committee – I want to use my passion for this topic to affect real change. Sadly, Congress voted against the resolution, but I believe we got our voices heard and Council will take notice of what we had to say. I am already working with RCN Scotland on ways we can promote nursing as an inclusive profession for all, and I will be speaking at their event in August this year, which you can book at the link below:
28 Aug 2018 16:00 – 18:00
Room CEE2 Centre for Executive Education, Glasgow Caledonian University, Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow, G4 0BA.
Based on me speaking at Congress, I was also asked to write a thinkpiece for Alliance Scotland:
Nursing is one of the most important professions in the world. Everyone at some point in their lives, whether directly or through a loved one, will come in contact with a nurse. It takes a very particular kind of person to be a nurse; they don’t do it for the fame, they certainly don’t do it for the fortune, it is something inherent within them. I was inspired to get into nursing by a very special and inspirational nurse: my mum, who has dedicated her entire working life to her patients and their families. I am proud to be a student nurse, and I cannot wait to be a nurse; but, I do not consider myself a male student nurse. I will not be a male nurse. However, I am passionate about getting more men into nursing. The right men: men who have the necessary values to be a nurse. The reason: I believe the nursing workforce must be as diverse as the communities we serve. At the moment, it is not. I want to promote nursing as a wonderful, rewarding career for all, and I want to encourage men into nursing who may not know it is a viable career option for them.
Eleven per cent of nurses are male, and this figure has been largely unchanged since the 1980s. However, the idea of a campaign to recruit men into nursing has raised some serious debate. Undeniably, there is a serious disparity of men at senior management and professoriate level in nursing; this is an issue that must be addressed. We need to establish why this is happening. That being said, the proposed campaign to recruit men into nursing is concerned with the number of men working at grassroots Band 5 level: the nurses who interact with patients and their families on a day-to-day basis. So, I believe it is essential we do not conflate these two issues. We won’t solve one problem by ignoring another. We need to diversify the nursing workforce, and we need to do it now.
How do we do this? Personally, I don’t believe we should be giving scholarships or grants to attract men into nursing. Women – remarkable women – have paved the way in our profession for years. This is something we should be immensely proud of and celebrate. It would be a disservice to these women, and all women, to positively discriminate men in this way. I think we can solve the issue of the disparity at senior level and attract more men into nursing in the same way.
Nursing needs a serious image overhaul. We need to educate the public about what it means to be a nurse, what it is we do. Too often we still hear that nursing is “women’s work” or that if you are clever, you should push yourself into a career more difficult than nursing. I am so offended when I hear the latter; I had the grades to be a doctor, I chose to be a nurse. Nursing is a degree educated profession with many diverse career options. We need to showcase this and celebrate nursing as a career for all. The problem, I believe, is society’s view of women and “women’s work”. How do we change that?
We should be educating children from primary school age. We have generations of societal views to change, and this is where opinions are formed. We need to have nurses and student nurses from all backgrounds and genders going into primary and secondary schools. Have them meet modern nurses. That way we will hopefully encourage not only more young boys but more young girls into nursing.
I sit on the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Students’ Committee, and because of this, my picture was in the Students’ Magazine. My friend, a fellow student nurse, text me to say that her daughter had been so impressed, she had taken the magazine into show-and-tell at school – she’s seven. When my friend asked her what she had told the class, she said: “this is mummy’s friend… he’s a boy nurse because that’s fine.” Out of the mouth of babes. A campaign like this really could make a difference.
I know that I am a cisgender, white male; that with that comes privilege, and I am far from disadvantaged in society. I can’t change who I am, but I can help to diversify the nursing workforce to reflect the communities we serve. I would encourage you all to as well.
I have always been a big champion of the student’ voice and am proud of my involvement with the RCN, but attending my first ever Congress was a massive game changer for me. I left feeling empowered. The passion, commitment and activism shown by RCN students in our 50th anniversary year was inspirational. We must build on this momentum. I am certainly going to – join me.