There is something strange regarding the emerging occupation of male nurses in China. Advertisements claim they are in demand, yet many well-trained male nurses are looking for employment; some are trying to change their job, according to media reports.
In big cities such as Shanghai and Guangzhou, in fast-developing areas, as well as in less-developed provinces, male nurses are scarce. It's exceedingly difficult for hospitals to recruit them.
Many people attribute the scarcity to society's view point that nursing is a women's job. Women are seen as more careful and patient than men, while as nurses they take great care of patients, providing injections and dispensing medicine.
In fact, there are many reasons hospitals need male nurses. In general, they are physically stronger or more energetic than women. Male nurses are particularly needed in emergency departments, men's departments and psychiatric hospitals, to name but a few, according to some experts.
According to some media studies, many students and their parents hold the wrong concepts about the profession. This is the main reason very few males are likely to take nursing when they choose a subject for their secondary or higher learning.
According to a staff member of Jinan Health School in the Shandong provincial capital, in 2002, the institute recruited more than 130 students for its nursing program. Among them, only eight were male. What's worse, four later transferred to other specialties.
Although hospitals claim a scarcity of males in nursing specialties leads to the recruitment difficulty, those seeking employment see it rather differently.
In a recent employment poll of male nurses conducted by China's Male Nurse Forum (www.malenurse.cn/bbs/), the 31 nurses participating gave surprising responses.
The results showed only five were still on the job, two had changed occupation, and the other 24 were looking for employment.
A male nursing high school graduate who asked to remain anonymous said it was extremely difficult to find a hospital job if you have no money or connections with hospital leaders. A bribe of at least 50,000 yuan (about 6,670 U.S.dollars) is needed to secure employment, the man claimed.
While an overwhelming majority of male nurses chose their specialty due to the introduction of teachers and parents, many were now regretting their decision.
Another unidentified male nursing student in Shanghai who claimed he was inveigled into the profession, said "it's really a shame for a man to do nursing".
Feng Hongsheng, a Jinan Air Force Hospital nurse, said when he was a hospital intern his teacher told him, "Get a move on. You'd better change your occupation while you are young."
Feng said his base monthly salary is 800 yuan (about 106.67 U.S.dollars). One of his teachers at the hospital who has worked for more than 30 years, earns only 1,000 yuan a month.
He added nurses were at a disadvantage and their social status and pay were not good. He is planning to leave the hospital and do nursing for private households in his own business.
Chen Zengchuan, an employee with a labor agency for health professionals in the southwest Chongqing Municipality, said the scarcity of male nurses doesn't directly mean a pressing need as "there are enough female nurses in every hospital".
The main reason for the scarcity lies in the low payment for nurses. He suggested the salary and social status for male nurses be enhanced so as to ensure a sustainable development of this emerging occupation.
(Xinhua News Agency February 13, 2008)