When David Ferran left school at the age of 17, he was encouraged to learn a trade and become a bricklayer or an electrician.
But that wasn’t for him. He went into nursing, bucking the trend in what is still a female-dominated profession.
David, who works in the dermatology department at the Royal Victoria Hospital, in Belfast, says: “I love the job – and think more men should consider it. But because of the stereotypes surrounding it, they don’t.
“People ask me, ‘Are you a doctor?’ Then when I say, ‘No, I’m a nurse,’ they say, ‘Do you want to become a doctor?’ I have to say, ‘No, this is what I want to do.’ Some people are surprised.
“There’s a gender imbalance – and that’s not good for patients.
“One day when I was on shift, there was an elderly man who clearly looked uncomfortable about the idea of a female nurse providing personal care.
“I was able to do it, but that is not the case always. There are not enough male nurses – only about one in 10 nurses are men.”
‘Male Florence Nightingale’
David has formed a group – Northern Ireland Men in Nursing – which will be going round schools to promote it as a career option for men.
He believes the media could play a role, citing the lack of male nurses in TV roles, with the exception of Charlie Fairhead in the BBC series Casualty.
David led a debate at the Royal College of Nursing’s annual conference in Belfast this week, in which members urged the union to help create male icons to rank alongside Florence Nightingale.
RCN general secretary Janet Davies agrees there is a need to get rid of the stereotyping that creates the perception that nursing is “women’s work”.
“It goes hand in hand with gender equality,” she says. “Men are taking on more of a caring role in society, but we are not seeing that in nursing yet.”
She too would like to see more male nurses appearing on TV. But she says the profession itself also needs to consider its role. And phrases such as “ward sister” and “matron” may be “out-dated”.
“That is something that should be debated. We also need to do more to promote careers in nursing to everyone. Nursing is an incredibly complex, skilled job.”