Opinion

Voice of a student: 'fear prevents men from becoming HVs'

07 September 2018

Health visiting was a breath of fresh air after the clinical side of nursing. It felt similar to voluntary work, except now I was learning something new every day.

My mentor was an experienced health visitor, and I quickly understood why she – and I – enjoyed the role. It’s mainly because it never felt like a job to me: it was relaxed in communication, yet everything was completed with a clear focus on the needs of the family. Supporting struggling families was intriguing and eye-opening. I encountered many people who were in the middle of a battle over housing, and others who had just escaped abusive relationships. Some visits drew my empathy and I wanted to offer support as much as I could, although I was careful enough not to get too involved in their cases – something that my mentor told me health visitors need to avoid.

I maintained a professional profile, even at awkward moments, such as when my mentor and I intuitively realised that a father was uncomfortable with me in the room while his wife breastfed their child. We could read his body language, so I sat facing his back as he obstructed my view from his wife and child.

 

In the minority

Small events like that reminded me that I am in the minority as a male student nurse. I realised that it was essential to phone families before a visit, mainly to ask if they had any issues or concerns about my involvement. The priority was addressing my ‘male’ aspect because some families became slightly apprehensive when told.

I believe it was primarily culture that affected some of their decisions. Coming from an Asian Muslim family myself, I am aware that having unknown men around exposed wives can be embarrassing to some because of their personal beliefs.

The instances where being a male affected placement allowed me to acknowledge why men stereotypically avoid nursing as a career. I researched the topic, and learned that men generally choose intensive care, A&E and mental health as areas to work in rather than community healthcare. I believe that it is likely fear and paranoia that prevents men from considering nursing. The profession can be portrayed as ‘feminine’, and the perception of friends and family mocking their decision is humiliating.

However, I personally enjoyed the investigative nature of the work: it reminded me of Sherlock Holmes when we encouraged families who were reluctant to discuss any issues or concerns to truthfully explain their feelings, or asked questions that mattered to support people through difficult events. To me, that responsibility was not feminine or masculine but essential for the community, and I was proud to help.

 

Your fellow students can help

Always form a close bond with your colleagues – they can turn a miserable day into a positive one. It’s common for HVs to proceed with documentation, chase up phone calls and complete RiO work after shift hours to avoid the accumulation of admin work. Your colleagues are there to relieve that stress.

 

Raheece Raza First-year student nurse at the University of Birmingham

@Raheece

 

Picture credit | iStock

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