Bursaries worth £3,000 will be issued to men who take up nursing degrees as part of Coventry University’s bid to balance the gender disparity in the workforce.
Men currently account for 10% of the total nursing students placed at UK universities, according to UCAS data which shows 2,800 men accepted onto nursing courses compared with 26,000 women last year.
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Coventry University announced it has put aside £30,000 to help men move into courses such as nursing, occupational therapy, physiotherapy and midwifery, which are usually made up of predominantly female students.
Each student would receive £1,000 annually for three years and would not have to pay the money back.
Coventry University’s health dean Rob James said: ‘While there’s lots being done nationally – and at Coventry – to encourage women into sciences and engineering, we hope this new initiative will lead the way in addressing the persistent low proportion of men working in many healthcare professions.’
Tackling stereotypes is the best place to start in order to remove stigmas discouraging men from nursing, according to Colin Harrison – one of only two men in his year studying Coventry’s Learning Disabilities Nursing degree.
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‘Nursing is very much seen as a women’s profession but for many patients, especially male, to be treated by another man or to see men on the wards can be very important,’ he said. ‘I think reaction to what I do as a man is very much a generational thing and it’s changing.
‘People usually are shocked but then are really interested in it. There is also a stigma around learning disabilities and mental health that comes from lack of understanding about what we do. But the more we get people talking about this the more easily we can bring about change.’
In 2016, there were 23,280 more women on undergraduate nursing degree courses – indicating a rising disparity compared to the 19,475 difference in 2012. All initiatives to boost the numbers of nurses-in-training are welcome, according to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).
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RCN diversity and equalities co-ordinator Wendy Irwin said: ‘We welcome Coventry University encouraging skilled and talented people into nursing and providing opportunities to diversify the workforce. The bursary is a step forward in changing people’s perceptions of nursing, which has long been undervalued as a profession.
‘There are severe staff shortages across the NHS and nurses are struggling to keep up with the cost of living. To show nurses that they are valued, ministers can start by reversing the decision to remove student bursaries and lift the pay cap.’