About a year ago, as part of work to transform perceptions of nursing,  I facilitated a design team to work with Butterfly Books – the publishing house set up by award winning chartered electrical engineer and author Kerrine Bryan – to produce a new children’s picture book that aims to tackle misconceptions about men’s role in nursing, at the grassroots.

That book, My Daddy Is A Nurse, has this morning been launched at Percy Shurmer Academy by Ruth May our Chief Nursing Officer for England as part of the Year of the Nurse and Midwife celebrations. It will be the sixth book in a series of titles targeting 4 to 7 year olds that has originally incorporated inspiring female role models undertaking jobs or professions ‘typically’ held by men. Previous titles include My Mummy Is A Plumber, My Mummy Is A Scientist and My Mummy Is A Soldier 

As well as nurses, we were delighted to have Jennifer Linekar on the design team. Jennifer is a teacher at the Percy Shurmer Academy where Ruth May also original launched the gender neutral mini uniforms and in this case study gives her perspective on why this book is important:

CASE STUDY: Jennifer Linekar, teacher, Percy Shurmer Academy 

I’ve taught children from ages 3 to 11 throughout my 16 year career as a teacher. From experience, I’ve perceived that in the early years, children do inadvertently develop a notion that boys and girls have to play with different toys, wear clothes with specific colours aligned to their gender or see their parents in traditional job roles.  In role play, girls tend to take on the maternal roles and chose princess dresses whereas boys tend to head for the fireman costume and play with construction. I think today these stereotypes are breaking down; I teach 9 year olds boys who love wearing pink football shirts and football boots, and I’ve taught 11 year old girls who aspire to be anything from radiographers to footballers. 

I’ve always been a passionate advocate for improving children's reading and promoting reading for pleasure. It opens up creativity and helps children to grow an open and naturally inclusive mindset. 

I became involved in the My Daddy is a Nurse project after discussing the various ways in which nursing could be advocated in primary schools. I’ve previously worked with the NHS as well as a team of nurses to explore ways in which children could be made more aware of the diversity of roles in nursing and the various paths they would need to take for this happen. 

The options are vast – nurses can work in surgery, stroke, paediatrics – and can even be a nurse at a football club. At our school, we’ve also worked with women who are biomedical engineers from the University of Birmingham in order to encourage more girls to get involved in science-based professions in the future. We did this through immersive drama with The Playhouse where we, again, explored the pathways to becoming a biomedical engineer, including the skills needed and the subject areas related to the profession.

We were privileged to welcome Chief Nursing Officer for England Ruth May into our classroom recently as part of our vision to raise the aspirations of our children, to help them understand that nursing and midwifery professions could be a career of choice, and to ensure that they understand the education routes that will support them in achieving their potential. 

Ruth was joined by nurse ambassadors, both men and women, from a wide range of nursing roles, and the children loved trying on their gender neutral ‘future nurse’ uniforms. Some of our students were, of course, surprised to see men in nursing roles, so this was a valuable opportunity for them to learn more about what a job in nursing entails and the stories which led these highly skilled men and women to pursue these specific career paths.

The children learnt that there were so many elements to the role of nursing that you could specialise in a number of areas – from looking after babies in intensive care and working in accident and emergency, to community nursing work, caring for people to live independently in the comfort of their own homes. It was an enlightening experience for them, and many came away very enthusiastic about exploring nursing as a job when they are older. 

It’s clear that misconceptions about what jobs men and women should do can start at a really early age. But if we can educate our children about the real opportunities available to them in the future, we will ensure that their aspirations are not blocked by notions of gender stereotypes. This isn’t just applicable to nursing but to many other careers where there is a massive gender imbalance present – particularly within the STEM sectors.

The launch of My Daddy Is A Nurse drives in this possibility further, really dramatising how exciting and important nursing is in a way that engages with children’s imaginations. It is a small but important step in tackling misconceptions that might otherwise deter young minds from pursuing an interest or passion in a subject because they believe that “that’s for girls,” or “that’s not for boys”.