A FORMER international boxer is fighting for a campaign to attract more men into nursing.

Stevie Morrison, who hung up his gloves to become a nurse, is at the forefront of the MenRnurses2 drive launched this week.

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The nursing profession has long sought to get rid of the tired stereotypes of nurses and the “caring angels” image in the belief that men should consider nursing, and that it is not just a career for women.

There has been a small increase in male nursing applicants across Scotland, up from 370 last year to 410 this year according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), but fewer than 10 per cent of nursing students are male – a figure that has hardly changed in the past decade.

The social media campaign from Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU), where 25 per cent of the nursing teaching staff is male, is seeking to redress that balance and break down stereotypes in schools.

Mr Morrison, a nursing lecturer at GCU who is also involved in the Men in Nursing universities research group reporting to the Scottish Government on how best to increase numbers, said: “As well as launching the @GCUMenRnurses2 social media campaign to raise awareness, we plan to take our message into schools.

“We’ll be using male and female staff profiles to let the boys and young men see that nursing is an attractive career for them with a broad range of opportunities.

“Research for the Men in Nursing study shows children as young as five have already formed ideas about gender roles and we think it’s important to get out there as early as possible, perhaps in nursery schools, to let them see men can be nurses too.

“If you try to buy a nurse’s costume in a toy shop, it’s still usually a dress, with a picture of a girl model on the package – but nurses wear unisex scrubs these days. Meanwhile, a doctor’s costume will have a picture of a boy in a white coat with a stethoscope. Children are influenced by these stereotypes.”

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Mr Morrison, a former middleweight boxer who represented Scotland in boxing tournaments around the world, including the 1990 Commonwealth Games, and who continues to work as a Boxing Scotland referee and judge, faced challenges when he was considering nursing as a career.

The Herald:

“I was helping to care for my gran, who had dementia, and after leaving school I worked in a hospital pharmacy, where I became interested in nursing. My supervisor encouraged me into the profession, but I never told any of my friends when I was applying for my diploma. 

“My best friend was also interested in a career in nursing and we used to talk about it in secret as there was such prejudice against men going into the profession.”

The father-of-four who has been in nursing for 23 years, added: “Nursing is a fantastic career with plenty of variety, flexibility and opportunities to progress – and I’d like more boys and men to know what a broad and deep profession it is. I believe nursing can become more attractive to men and that perceptions can change. 

“When I was a child, you hardly saw any female police officers or firefighters. That has changed and both those professions are the better for being more diverse – just as nursing will benefit from a workforce that better reflects our society.”

The social media campaign is backed by MSP John Mason, Vice Convener of the Economy, Energy and Fair Work Committee, who described the university’s new drive as a “brilliant idea”. “The Scottish Parliament is very interested in the gender pay gap and how we can change the idea that men are going into one profession traditionally and women into another.” 

Gordon Hill, a senior nursing lecturer at GCU, said: “The employment opportunities are there in nursing and there are also opportunities for career progression. It’s a varied career that can see a nurse going from intensive care to research to community and clinical nursing.

"We have an ageing population and need more nurses and more of them should be men. I’d like to get rid of the use of ‘male nurses’. After all, you don’t talk about ‘female doctors’. A  nurse is a nurse.”