Male nurses find it can be lonely helping people in hospitals
Wearing a light blue uniform and circulating from ward to ward, the 23-year-old young man was particularly noticeable among a group of female nurses.
“I was often considered an `alien’ in a profession occupied by females,” said Qian Erzhuang, one of a handful of male nurses at the Shanghaibased Children’s Hospital of Fudan University.
Though he said he often faced mistrust and misunderstanding from others since becoming a nurse two years ago, he said he really loves the job.
“When I do a transfusion or refresh a bandage, some parents often watch my each move, fearing that any inattention may harm their children,” he told China Daily in an interview just before the annual International Nurses Day, which is celebrated around the world on May 12.
“For many cases, I have to explain a lot to the little patients’ parents before I start to work. Some of them can accept me, but some still insist on changing to a female nurse,” he said.
Qian said that indeed bothers him, but it’s understandable.
“Working in a children’s hospital, we meet little patients every day. Parents are often very protective toward their children and have much higher requirements on nursing, especially when they see a male nurse,” he said.
As the only male nurse in the nephrology department, Qian is very popular among little patients, and his ID badge is full of cartoon stickers they have given him.
The hospital has only seven male nurses, including Qian, among more than 600 nurses.
“Most men don’t want this job, and some choose to leave after a short time. Even myself, I also had the idea of leaving at the beginning due to a lack of career identity and low social status,” Qian said.
The latest figures from the city’s health authorities show that there are more than 70,000 registered nurses in Shanghai, and among them only 918 are males.
In many developed countries, the proportion of male nurses accounts for more than 20 percent, and the number keeps rising about 2 to 3 percent each year, experts said. But in China, of about 2.5 million registered nurses, male nurses represent only 1 percent of that total, according to the Chinese Nursing Association.
There is still wide discrimination against male nurses, and Chinese people often believe that nursing is a feminine profession. This makes many young men feel uncomfortable and discouraged when they enter the profession, said Deng Jun, deputy head of the male-nurse working committee of the Chinese Nursing Association.
“Under such stereotyping, fewer young men choose to study nursing. Some male nursing students choose to work in other fields upon graduation, or leave for other professions after working for a very short time,” Deng said.
Xu Xiaoping, director-general of Shanghai Nursing Association, said many departments in hospitals urgently need male nurses.
“Men are usually physically stronger than women, and they have obvious advantages in some departments, such as male urological department, mental health, intensive care units, emergency departments and surgery rooms,” Xu said.
Male nurses often perform better in dealing with emergencies and using large medical instruments, and are actually very popular in hospitals, said Lu Qunfeng, deputy director of nursing department of Shanghai Children’s Hospital.
In recent years, some Shanghai hospitals have taken steps to retain their male nurses.
The Children’s Hospital of Fudan University recently established a mentor program to strengthen communications with the male nurses. They are given regular opportunities to talk with hospital management, and guidance and support for work and life. It also helps nurses design a career path for future development.
“Our hospital has paid more attention to my career development, and also provides me a lot of chances of study, which makes me full of confidence. I also gave up the thoughts o quitting the job,” Qian said.
A scene at the emergency unit of the Shanghai No 6 People’s Hospital.