• acute illness;
  • care;
  • dying;
  • emotion;
  • gender;
  • male nurse work;
  • phenomenology;
  • stereotype

The concept of care in male nurse work: an ontological hermeneutic study in acute hospitals

Aims. The aims of the study were to facilitate reflection upon an aspect of practice chosen by the participants, to explore and analyse these experiences and compare them with current literature on the concept of care in nursing practice.

Background. The concept of care is commonly used in the attempt to define what is unique about the role of the nurse, and both nursing and the concept of care are frequently associated with womanhood. Little research has been undertaken in relation to male nurse experiences and views on the concept.

Methods. The study used ontological hermeneutics to explore the concept of care in male nurse work in the acute general hospital setting. Eight male voluntary subjects from acute general hospital areas participated in the study and were asked to complete a summary of an experience from their practice that they felt exemplified care. Data for the study included the participants choice of practice experience, their subsequent reflections, the interview itself, the field journal and relevant literature and research.

Results. Six of the participants selected positive experiences in which they felt that their performance was satisfactory even though the events chosen for reflection were difficult and/or sad. The remaining two participants chose to reflect further on the difficulties they had within the experience. A conceptual model was constructed showing that the meeting of needs, effective communication and information giving were central to these nurses’ explanations of care within their practice. All but two of the participants broadened their gaze to include the significant others of the patient.

Conclusions. The reflections of these participants emaphsise the emotional load of practice and a sensitivity on their part to the male stereotype of being able to cope with such pressures. It is suggested therefore that those providing and managing clinical supervision take into account the possible reluctance of male nurses to seek such support. Issues of gender should be emphasized in nurse education, as these nurses were sensitive to the impact of gender on their practice, both with patient/clients and their significant others, and with colleagues.