Men in Nursing- Tom Hreben - Critical Care Practitioner

Men in Nursing- Tom Hreben


man-1123130_960_720        This particular offering for CREAD comes off the back of a topic that caught my eye on twitter one evening. Men in nursing. Ever an interesting topic. The #ManNurse was generated by @thebestjoan in a small discussion about why gentlemen choose to go into nursing and what could be done to make it more attractive to men as a whole. This is quite a relevant issues as men are still something of an exceptionally rare species within nursing. There are still relatively few of us around, despite this we seem to make a fair amount of noise on twitter (anecdotal evidence which I’m sure would be trumped by something else) for a variety of reasons. We are often stereotyped as a result of television shows, my Grandmother seems to think I’m Charlie from Casualty. Our stereotypes are either that of gay, lacking in masculinity or as failed medical students [Weaver et al 2013, Harding 2007]. Additionally we have been stereotyped as either lazy or power hungry, an assumption based purely on gender [Genua 2005].

So men in nursing. Why are we here? What draws us to what is traditionally seen as a female role? What do we see ourselves doing with it? First off, nursing isn’t a female only role. This construct was developed when nursing was dragged into modernity and started to evolve into something that we would recognise today by Florence Nightingale in the eighteen fifties. Men have always been in nursing, be that through involvement in religious orders such as The Knights of St John of Jerusalem, Knights Templar, the Brothers of St Anthony, Knights Hospitallers of St John and a plethora of other orders. We have also been heavily involved in the nursing of the armed forces before and since Nightingale. Nightingale is responsible for feminizing nursing and creating the gender associated role that we have today [Evans 2003]. This has acted as a deterrent to men entering into nursing for fear of being stereotyped, perceived as less manly or as a failed doctors. Additionally it has helped to strengthen the gender ties between nursing and women, medicine and men [Weaver et al 2013, Harding 2007].

Back to motivation for men entering nursing, there are, as with any any profession, a multitude of reasons for entering. From brief research I can give the following reasons:

  1. Altruism
  2. Influence of family members
  3. Previous experiences of caring prior to starting study
  4. Perceived job satisfaction
  5. Perceived personality match
  6. Perceived opportunities and security in employment
  7.  Dissatisfaction with previous employment

Wilson 2005, Whittock & Leonard 2003

So what drew me into nursing? If you ask me this on two different days you would get two different answers. As a rule the answers will be variations upon a theme. I will say that I wanted to do something different where no two days were the same. In a previous degree I was studying biomedical sciences with the aim to be an HCPC registered biomedical scientist working in a hospital pathology lab. Circumstances made me realise that this wasn’t what I wanted. My life was very much a nine to five existence and I could tell you what I’d be doing at any time any day of the week at any given time. I don’t really quite know what made me choose nursing. If you were to press me at this moment in time it would be because I can make an intervention and then see a tangible difference to a person’s condition being made. That’s the simple answer, sort of simple at any rate. If I am to look at this is a much deeper way there are somewhat more significant reasons. I can combine the pure sciences of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and see these play out in front of me. I can process, comprehend and appraise research, I can carry out my own research if I so desired. I can apply the findings of research to make me an evidence based practitioner. I can improve the art of caring through the sciences. Admittedly I can be something of a nerd. I have no shame in admitting that. I love to get right down into the nitty gritty of a a subject and make myself an expert as best I can. My current pet interest is sepsis management combined with learning more assessment skills and teaching these to nurses, skills that have traditionally been considered “advanced” or “doctors” skills. We are a profession in a place that can do so much for the good of people when we engage willingly with a learning process and do so without prejudicing against those who do. On a side note, that is another issue entirely.

As a professional I am trusted to exercise my knowledge, skills and clinical judgement. The traditional perception of the nurse is still deep seated within the psyche of the public; this is for a wide variety of reasons. As a consequence of that, I have experienced older attitudes to nursing modernising and towards men being a growing element within it. Sadly that’s only going to dissuade men from becoming nurses and ultimately, we need more men in this profession. It’s no fun being part of an endangered species! We are an ever evolving profession with so much scope to develop roles to suit an individual. I appreciate that this is not an easy option to pursue however it can be done. That all said, I am at something of a cross roads in my profession. Additionally I do not see my exposure to things such as major trauma being made possible without a move to a larger hospital, preferably a major trauma centre. I have predilection to working in a pre hospital environment as a more independent practitioner. I don’t get the independence that I crave at this moment in time. This is not a note that I would choose to end a post for CREAD on, however I am at a crossroads as I’ve already said.


Evans J [2003]; Men nurses: A historical and feminist perspective. Journal of Advanced Nursing 47 [3] 321 – 328

Genua J [2005] The vision of male nurses: Roles, barriers and stereotypes. Interaction

Harding T [2007] The construction of men who are nurses as gay. Journal of Advanced Nursing 60 [6] 636 – 644

Weaver R, Ferguson C, Wilbourn M, Salamonson Y [2013] Men in nursing on television: exposing and reinforcing stereotypes. Journal of Advanced Nursing 70 [4] 833 – 842

Whittock M, Leonard L [2003] Stepping outside the stereotype. A pilot study of the motivations and experiences of males in the nursing profession. Journal of Nursing Management 11 242 – 249

Wilson G [2005] The experience of males entering nursing: A phenomenological analysis of professionally enhancing factors and barriers. Contemporary Nurse 20 221 – 233   


image1_optTom is a registered nurse working in emergency care settings splitting his time between ED and EAU. His passions involve furthering nurse education in regards to physical assessment combined with the assessment and care of the rapidly deteriorating patient.

He also has a keen interest in simulation learning. Tom has an interest in massive transfusion in trauma, having written his undergraduate dissertation on the subject.

Stereotypically lacking in attention span, usually well natured when adequately caffeinated.

Tom studied and now works in Oxfordshire

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