Original Research - Special Collection: Contemporary Issues in Nursing

Four-year diploma male students’ experiences in a profession traditionally perceived as a female domain at a selected public college of nursing in Limpopo, South Africa

Ntombizodwa P. Ndou, Salaminah S. Moloko-Phiri
Curationis | Vol 41, No 1 | a1932 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v41i1.1932 | © 2018 Ntombizodwa P. Ndou | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 01 March 2018 | Published: 04 October 2018

About the author(s)

Ntombizodwa P. Ndou, Department of Health, Limpopo College of Nursing, South Africa
Salaminah S. Moloko-Phiri, Department of Nursing Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: Over the last 20 years, more men have been choosing to pursue a career in nursing. Despite this, men remain a minority in the nursing workforce around the world, including South Africa. Even though there is an increase in the number of male students entering the profession, male students remain a minority. Comparatively speaking, there is no balance between the number of female and male students taken in each intake. This is even reflected in the South African Nursing Council statistics. Nursing is traditionally perceived as a distinctly feminine career and the use of the terms ‘angel in a white dress, sister or nurse’ perpetuates this stereotype. This perception may deter some men from choosing a career in nursing and presents challenges for others who are currently in the profession.

Objectives: To explore and describe 4-year diploma male students’ experiences in a profession traditionally perceived as a female domain.

Method: This qualitative study used an explorative and descriptive design. The population comprised African male students in their third and fourth years of study who were registered for the 4-year diploma course at a selected public college of nursing in Limpopo, South Africa. Participants were purposively sampled. Five focus group discussions were conducted, and each comprised six to eight participants. The data were analysed using the Tesch’s open code method.

Results: Two themes emerged during data analysis: discrimination in the clinical setting and lack of role models and mentors.

Conclusion: Unless these challenging experiences are attended to, discrimination on the basis of gender in the clinical settings and lack of mentors may deter some men from choosing and remaining in the nursing profession. The selected public college of nursing and the nursing services need to work towards creating a welcoming environment to all students regardless of gender because some participants indicated that the clinical environment is sometimes not welcoming to them as men.


male nursing students; female profession; experiences


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