February 24, 2020

Unanswered Questions Concerning Gender Diversity and Equality in Nursing

Many individuals and organizations are discussing the ideas of gender diversity and equality in nursing, and they do so from a variety of differing perspectives. Some seem to express the view that the field of nursing needs more men because increasing gender diversity is an end in itself. Others seem to have in mind the end of achieving parity between the proportions of men and women in nursing. Still others are tackling the issue of barriers to entry into and the career outcomes of men in nursing.

I’m sure there are nuances within the overall discussion that I haven’t accounted for here, but my goal just now is to illustrate the variety. Through all of these discussions, I’m inclined to ask a variety of questions. Among these are the following, not in order of importance:

  1. Why is an increase in the proportion of nurses who are men desirable?
  2. What is the optimal proportion of men in nursing?
  3. Is there a one-to-one correspondence between the nursing work accomplished by individual male and female nurses?
  4. Is the nursing work accomplished by individual nurses enhanced by the work of other nurses, male or female?
  5. Should we expect the nursing work of men and women to be the same? Is it actually desirable?
  6. Is nursing a field truly amenable to gender diversity, or are men in nursing swimming upstream in futility?
  7. What is the importance of gender diversity and equality in the relationships between various health care professions?
  8. How does gender influence patient outcomes?

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of questions. With respect to many of these questions, there seems to be little widely available or promoted information or insight. Some of these issues seem to be discussed exclusively within the academic literature. Compared to many other research topics, comparatively few scholarly articles have been published on gender diversity or equality in nursing, and roughly half of them were published within the past five years. So, in terms of shear article counts, this field of study is relatively young.

One point of note is that much of the discussion within this field seems to place the burden of gender diversity and equality on male nurses specifically. We tend to apply the burden of a gender-identifying label to men in this field rather than to men and women equally. We tend to highlight the influences on men that lead them to enter or inhibit them from entering nursing. The same may be said of career development or leaving the profession.

Because men in nursing are in the extreme minority in many cases, it seems natural that there be added scrutiny concerning their “being” in nursing. However, I do often wonder whether or not it may be more fruitful for researchers to consider men and women equally as research subjects in order to more thoroughly understand some of the types of questions I’ve just listed. To that end, I’d like to invite others to discuss these and other issues here on Morning Vitals.

What questions do you have about gender diversity and equality in nursing?

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