International Nurses Day: Blurring lines of gender in healthcare

Demand for male nurses increases during pandemic

Society

May 12, 2021

/ By / New Delhi

International Nurses Day: Blurring lines of gender in healthcare

Males constitute only 10 pc of working total nurses in India currently (MIG Photos/ Aman Kanojiya)

Amidst a raging pandemic, demand for male nurses has increased across India as many female nurses have quit their jobs. Male nurses feel it is high time to see nursing as a gender-neutral profession.

India has recorded a spike in demand for male nurses amid the pandemic. The reason being that a lot of women have quit their jobs in fear of infection or of taking it home and passing it on to their family.

“I am a frontline worker. I work as a nurse and most probably, I will have to quit my job as I cannot risk infecting my in-laws or my small children. I am contemplating what to do now,” says a 27-year-old Sunidhi Devi, who works as a nurse in a private hospital in Shivamogga, Karnataka.

“Three other nurses from the hospital have already quit their jobs for this reason. The hospital I work in, is now putting up vacancies only for male nurses as they do not have to take care of children and family and can afford to live away from home meanwhile,” she adds.

Male nurses increase as females quit jobs

While the entry of thousands of new male nurses in the profession is not during an ideal situation, male nurses themselves say that it is a chance for them to prove that ‘nursing’ is not a female’s job only, contrary to the opinion that prevails across India at present. “It might not be the best reason for our inclusion because our female counterparts have to give up their jobs. But it is the perfect time for us to prove that nursing is a gender-neutral profession and male nurses can be good care-givers too,” says Dilip Kumar, a 28-year-old nurse who has been working in the same hospital as Devi.

Professor K George, President of Trained Nurses Association of India

Kumar was recruited in February this year. It is his first job. He completed his nursing course in 2019 but could not find a job for the past two years. “I received a few offers when I applied but the salary they offered me was not even enough to cover my monthly expenses. I kept hunting for job and finally, after almost two years, I have been recruited at a good salary,” says Kumar.

Like Kumar, thousands of other male nurses have been recently recruited around the country. Kumar says that earlier getting into the nursing profession was not easy for males. Even getting into a nursing college was difficult. Often, their families would not allow boys to become nurses.

“There are many negative connotations regarding Indian men in the nursing field, starting with female patients exhibiting discomfort with male nurses,” Dr Roy K George, National President of Trained Nurses Association of India (TNAI) tells Media India Group.

He explains that usually women do not prefer to have the assistance of male nurses during delivery, antenatal, post-natal and labour ward for care, which makes it extremely difficult to impart the training to male candidates.

“Earlier, this profession was considered only a female’s profession due to their nurturing nature. Nursing is often perceived as a ‘woman’s work’ and male nurses are seen to be patient-unfriendly,” he adds.

Making nursing a gender-neutral profession

A final year student of nursing in Bangalore, Lalith K says that nursing students have seen this stereotype against male nurses from the college level itself. “Usually there is a 10:1 ratio between female and male nursing students every year in college. It typically becomes a profession of females. Other professions like doctors, pharmacists, lab technicians have no such kind of ratio fixations,” he adds.

He says that the painful story of male nurses begins once they enter into the ‘nursing education’. They come across various abasement, bitter incidents during the courses like less availability of internships, less number of boys in class and even being ridiculed by their families for not being a caregiver. Once they complete the degree or diploma, the real battle for hunting jobs starts.

“My seniors tell me that many private hospitals neglect the male nurses and recruit only female nurses. Even if recruited, salary of male nurses is usually less in comparison to females. Though government of India has passed many regulations to increase the salary of nurses, most private hospitals continue to give lower salary to male nurses as the demand and requirement for females is more,” he adds.

Usually burdened with being a breadwinner of the family, male nurses cannot manage with a low salary. “Some try to go abroad and some try to find central government jobs.  Those who can pay initial investment amount, they go abroad. But the poor male nurses who cannot spend money for even the visa & other process, they try for central government jobs,” says Lalith K.

Role of CIB & government

Dr George, President of TNAI also informs that the Central Institute Body (CIB)’s decision on its 4th meeting held on July 27, 2019 has put the future of male nurses in question. It said if 100 nurses are recruited 80:20 ratio between female and male should be followed. This has hurt many young male nurses who try for jobs at AIIMS institutions, recently AIIMS Nagpur and AIIMS Patna followed the 80:20 ratio in their latest notifications.

“CIB has to consider nursing as a profession. Male Nurses also undergo same training what the female do. So there can be no professional incompetence in view of patient care and comfort. Deciding ratio in view of patient care and comfort is not a fair decision,” he says.

While he says that there is an absence of exact data on the number of male nurses working currently in India, he estimates that overall, males constitute only 10 pc of working total nurses in India currently.

“The number of male nurses has definitely increased in last 20 years with the establishment of more and more private nursing colleges but it is still very low. Nursing as a profession is the backbone of healthcare system in India and our fight for bridging gender gap will continue. We feel that this is not the perfect time, but as soon as the pandemic gets over and healthcare situation gets better, we will make efforts to train, include and raise voices for a better gender balance in nursing,” he adds.

He further says that the patients must be given comfort and care through professional nurses, irrespective of gender. Also any decision that affects the nurses should be taken by the officials who have studied nursing. “Without having an idea about professional nursing, CIB has passed the orders which needs immediate attention for a change and we will work towards it. The change has already started with more boys opting for the profession in last few years,” he says.

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