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Class Of 2020: Ilhaam Noordien Investigates The Challenges Of Male Nurses

Author: Nicklaus Kruger

Nurses are at the forefront of the healthcare system, and we need more of them - especially now. For that, we need more men to consider nursing as a career. UWC’s Ilhaam Noordien tried to find out what’s holding them back in her Masters thesis research.

(Published - 2 April 2020)

Only 10% of the world’s nurses are men. But despite reported gender bias and stigmatisation, there has been an increase in the number of men entering the profession. UWC nursing student Ilhaam Noordien set out to identify factors motivating men to choose nursing and to identify the perceived challenges of male nursing students. 

Her thesis - A cross-sectional profile of male students registered as BNursing students at a nursing training institution in the Western Cape - has earned her a Master’s degree from the University of the Western Cape. 

“Some of the main findings indicated that males were influenced by intrinsic motivations such as ‘wanting to make a difference in society’ and a ‘desire to help people’,” Noordien reports. “That kind of motivation should be celebrated and encouraged.”

The respondents also described challenges. They reported that, among other things, they experienced communication difficulties with female patients, that men are reluctant to be cared for by male nurses, and that they are “nervous” that patients may accuse them of sexal harrassment. 

“I feel it’s important to break the belief that nursing is only a female-oriented profession,” Noordien says. “There is a real need to increase diversity within the nursing profession to better meet the needs of South African society - and recruiting more men into the profession is one way of addressing the demand for more nurses.”

The social challenges experienced by her male student compatriots are extensive.

“Nursing is not perceived as being very masculine or for macho males,” Noordien says. “Female nurses are seen as more caring than males; men are perceived as not being caring enough, and men are even deemed inappropriate in some areas e.g. midwifery. The respondents agreed that the media portrays male nurses as gay and effeminate, and portrays nursing to be more suited for women.”

She believes strategies should be implemented - such as including men in career promotional material - to recruit more men to the profession.

“While nursing cannot change societal values, the nursing profession and nursing education programmes can set a standard that impacts the current attitude that society holds of men in the nursing profession.”

Noordien grew up in Portlands, Mitchell’s Plain - the second eldest of seven siblings. After matriculating, she couldn’t decide what profession to pursue, so she took a gap year. She taught religious studies to young kids at a mosque, then did a one-year Islamic studies and Arabic course. Then her grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy. The family would take turns sleeping at her hospital bedside to feed, bath and take care of her. When she was discharged, Ilhaam went to help her at home.

“My grandmother told me that I would become a very good nurse, and her words stuck in my head,” Noordien notes. “That’s when I realised I had reached my calling, and I applied to the University of the Western Cape for Nursing. The day I got my acceptance letter, I could proudly tell my grandmother that I was accepted to study nursing. The next day she passed on.”​​

She thanks her supervisors, Prof Hester Julie and Jeffrey Hoffman for their patience, guidance and support.

“Just the mere fact that I have reached my true end goal, graduating, is a great achievement for me. So, whether it is physically or virtually, I will truly embrace the moment - and my husband, Abdurahgmaan, and four children, Ayesha, Gouwa, Maqsood Ahmad and Ghadeejah, will embrace it with me. I can’t thank them enough for their support and understanding, motivation and sacrifice, and their belief in me.”​​

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