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Just how male are male nurses..?


Mark Loughrey
School of Nursing and Midwifery
University College
Telephone: +00 353 21 4903000


Aim.  The aim of the present research study was to elucidate, quantitatively, the gender role perceptions of male nurses in Ireland.

Background.  Caring, women and the female gender role are all historically and fiercely synonymous. However, not all carers are women. For instance, male nurses also assume caring roles. What we do not know is how these men actually relate to their own gender role. Is it possible that because of their immersion in a stereotypically caring career they actually occupy the female gender role?

Design.  A quantitative non-experimental descriptive design was adopted.

Method.  Short-form Bem sex role inventory was mailed to a random sample of 250 male registered general nurses in Ireland to ascertain whether they perceived themselves to occupy the male or female gender role.

Results.  One hundred and four men completed the inventory. Overall, the sample identified with more female than male gender norms. Specifically, 78 respondents identified themselves as adhering to more female gender role norms than male gender role norms, whereas 21 respondents identified more strongly with male gender role norms. Five respondents identified equally with both gender roles.

Conclusion.  This study quantitatively elucidates the gender perceptions of male nurses in Ireland for the first time.

Relevance to clinical practice.  Adherence to the female gender role may be an important prerequisite to caring. If this is true, then this study supports the notion that many male nurses occupy this gender role. However, adoption of facets of the female gender role may not be unique to male nurses. Many men may occupy this role and perhaps resultantly be attracted to or well-suited to caring careers. Attracting such men may help in solving the recruitment and retention issues that surround caring careers. Furthermore, the attraction of more men to caring careers may subside the stigma for the minority of men already in such careers.