Transforming the perceptions of nursing and midwifery is a challenging task. There are myriad cultural misconceptions; for example, many people incorrectly assume that all nurses are women. There can also be a stigma attached to men in the nursing profession.

The stigma, misconceptions, and stereotypes have resulted in a stark figure: only 11% of nurses are men.

Any profession and community thrives with diversity of all kinds. At a recent Men In Nursing Event, hosted at De Montfort University in Leicester the contribution men already make in the profession was celebrated. The event was an opportunity for activists within the nursing community to come together to share thoughts and ideas; and to agree priority areas going forward.

Paul Vaughan, Director of Nursing and Transformation for NHS England welcomed participants. As a male nurse in a very senior and influential position, Paul set the tone for the event. He reminded the room of Professor Jane Cummings’ words:

“The way nursing and midwifery is seen, portrayed in the media and popular culture affects how we feel as individuals and as a collective. It affects how the public and other professions also see us. It has an influence on how successful we are at attracting the best, retaining the best, and being the best we can be, at the top of our game.”

We heard from Shaun Williams (twitter), a student learning disabilities nurse about his experiences of being a mature student. You can read more about his career aspirations, and how he is caring for people with learning disabilities.

Joan LaPons Plana, who has a long career in nursing and is now a clinical fellow at NHS Digital encouraged everyone to work together. He talked about the change and transformation skills he learnt as part of the School for Change Agents.

Andrew Clifton, Associate Professor of Nursing at De Montfort gave an outline of nursing in Italy, where they don’t have the gender disparity.

Groups such as Men into Nursing Together are already inspiring more men to consider the profession as a viable career, and to encourage everyone, regardless of gender, to remove the gender stigma.

Because the future of nursing and midwifery is more than about men or women (indeed, there are many who don’t identify within these gender binaries). Let’s focus on the skills, not gender. We need to work together to challenge the stereotypes and misconceptions. We need to encourage and welcome people with the skills to be an excellent nurse or midwife to consider these careers. We need to support one another to stay in the professions, to keep going over the hurdles.

We need to make sure we have sufficient numbers of nurses, with the right skills, to ensure we ourselves or someone we love will receive the care that we deserve whenever it is needed.

Let’s focus on building a diverse community that addresses and transforms perceptions by challenging stereotypes and stigma, through raising awareness of the breadth of available career opportunities in nursing and midwifery, and celebrates the positive rewards, rather than focusing on the negatives.

This fantastic visual summary of the day by More Than Minutes gives an overview of the day. 

In the spirit of the Millennium Falcon image that features within it…we’re not a long time ago in a galaxy far far away...it’s now! Let’s transform the perceptions of nursing and midwifery together. The Force is strong with us.

Find out more about the Transforming Perceptions of Nursing and Midwifery campaign, and sign up as an ambassador.