Anybody seeing the founder of Nursing World Nigeria, Jude Nwaobi, for the first time could mistake him for a banker.
A registered midwife and a fellow of the West African College of Nursing, Nwaobi said unless the average male nurse narrates his experience, it might be difficult for people to understand the kind of frustrations they pass through as a worker in the health sector.
“Male nurses also face role-traps and stereotyping. There is a general perception among our people that nursing is a feminine job.
“And because the title ‘nurse’ brings up images of women caring for kids or female nurses walking around in hospitals, it doesn’t really help men, though neither of these images are wrong,” he said.
The caregiver, who holds a B.Sc. and M.Sc. in nursing, said apart from being mistaken for doctors every time they walk into wards, they are often bombarded with questions on their chosen career.
“Sometimes, we spend the better part of the day defending ourselves. You tend to hear things like, ‘Is there anything like male nurses?’ With responses such as, ‘Yes, I am a nurse;’ ‘No, I did not fail medicine and fall back on nursing as a second choice;’ or, ‘Yes, I chose nursing, and I will be taking care of you,’” he stated.
Nwaobi expressed concerns that socio-cultural and religious norms are two factors limiting physical contact between patients and caregivers.
According to the accident and emergency nurse, some women have had a few negative experiences with men in the past, thereby making it a challenge to allow a man, even in a professional setting, to touch, treat or go over personal health details with them.
“As a male nurse, you will have opportunities to do cervical exams, assist in deliveries, insert Foley catheters to drain urine, conduct breast assessment, perform perineal care and do many other things that require physical contact with a female patient.
“Because of this, male nurses must cope with sexual stereotyping regarding suspicion surrounding intimate touch.
“If a female patient misinterprets your actions as being sexual in nature, this might be misconstrued as an assault. With female nurses, there is not so much concern,” Nwaobi said.
The nurse noted that some patients put up drama any time they want to avoid the service of a male caregiver, warning that such people should be given the preference to swap a male nurse with a female colleague.
He said that in caregiving, competence, rather than gender preference, should be considered “because a nurse would always be a nurse.”
“If they reject your care, its best to switch patients with your female colleagues to perform the needed procedures. Or, better still, the use of chaperones is highly recommended.
“Even with doctors who are male, a female nurse must be in attendance. It gives you some legal protection as the case may be,” Nwaobi added.