The Icelandic Nurses’ Association has recently announced their intention to pay school fees for young male students, in order to encourage more men to become nurses in Iceland, RÚV reports.
Jobs in nursing have always been seen as essentially female, and in extreme cases even too emasculating for men to undertake. In the past decade, however, the number of male nursing students has increased in various countries across the world. According to research from 2013 by the United States Census Bureau, for instance, “the proportion of male registered nurses has more than tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.”
In a country known for being at the forefront of the struggle for gender equality, however, the number of male nurses seems to be much lower than in other countries. Only 2% of Icelandic nurses, in fact, are men. “Why is it than in 2018 we only have one gender providing care for sick people?” President of the Association Guðbjörg Pálsdóttir asks. “What is the social norm here? Shouldn’t we reflect the situation of our patients with our services? We have to live in the present.”
As a tentative response to this issue, the association has therefore decided to implement some sort of gender quota system to balance the numbers out, since it has proven to work before in other fields, both in Iceland and abroad. This particular project will last five years and it will begin in autumn. Students who complete their studies will then be able to receive their school fees back directly from the Association.
Nursing students, however, found the decision unfair, says Sigurður Ýmir Sigurjónsson, who is President of the Faculty of Health Science at the University of Iceland and is currently studying to become a nurse. “There are nursing students now looking at their school fees in their bank and wondering, should I pay for this?” Sigurður told RÚV. “Why do I have to pay for this while male students don’t?”
Sigurður does agree that the lack of male nurses is an issue, but that the reason behind these numbers has nothing to do with education-related expenses. “This is a problem that we should spend money on,” Sigurður concedes. “But we should rather get a better deal from the State, and then maybe more men would want to do this job.”