Gender Bias In Nursing Education

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Summary of Article
            The article, Warming the nursing education climate for traditional-age learners who are male, (Bell-Scriber, 2008) describes some of the various mechanisms that contribute to an environment resulting in higher attrition among traditional-age (18-23) males. It highlights the limited amount of research and programs designed to understand the problem and facilitate retention. Surprisingly, some of the factors attributed to hold the most significance impairing male students exist within the environment designed to educate and train nurses for readiness in the profession. One barrier to success includes the paucity of available male mentors. This is underscored by the core influencing hindering factor: nurse instructors’ attitudes and behaviors that have been demonstrated to be characteristically unsupportive (Bell-Scriber, 2008). Bell-Scriber also notes that nurse instructors, overwhelmingly female, are frequently unaware of the needs and triggers that stimulate frustration and stress in the male student. Males have also expressed perceived discrimination in the clinical setting although this is generally bias influenced by perceived role identity within settings such as labor and delivery and pediatrics.
            The belief that a woman and a man are equal in skills and outcomes reveal a direct contrast when both sexes develop opposing experiences and perspectives about the learning environment and process associated information differently. Apparently, the number of years an instructor teaches does not play a role when perceiving influences that affect learning. Many factors play into this and more research underpinning educators’ influence regarding students’ ability to learn is clearly indicated.
Themes Influencing Climate
            There were five themes generated from the study: 1) Nurse educators’ behaviors and characteristics; Micro-inequalities inherent in instruction delivery. Subtleties such as conversive terseness, body language, gestures, tone, inferring a diminutive attitude toward male learners feelings and thoughts, and absence of interaction all relay an atmosphere that erodes the learning climate. It was noted that nurse educators often fail to understand male students and perceive their behaviors as lazy. Female learners on the other hand were perceived as more nurturing and caring endearing stronger support from their instructors. 2) Meaningful experiences; all male learners described meaningful experiences occurred away from their instructors with their patients while most females described experiences occurring with their instructor as meaningful. 3) Peers’ behaviors and characteristics; Male learners experienced support from their peers as a prospective nurse while some of their instructors questioned their motivations. 4) Education environmental factors; Classroom size inhibited interaction due to males fearing being focused on when asking questions. Textbooks showed a strong disparity using females as examples while omitting males. The use of the terms her and she where noted as universal in some textbooks and handouts. In addition to these influences, male learners noticed their continued diminishing population, which enhanced other negative climate variables. 5) External environmental factors; Men often experienced inadequate social support from their peer group, family, and friends. They were sometimes teased or their intentions questioned. This was known to have a stifling effect (Bell-Scriber, 2008). 
Application to Practice
According to the National League for Nursing (Adams et. al, 2005), a core competency of nurse educators should be the ability to develop an environment that is conducive to learning for all students regardless of cultural variable including age, sex, and minority status. Traditional-age males are no exception. Nontraditional-age males do not experience the same difficulties as their life experience and coping abilities have evolved better equipping them to overcome perceived challenges noted by traditional-age male learners (Bell-Scriber, 2008). There are many strategies to consider in addressing this educational challenge. Nurse educators can be encouraged to allow for outside observers or culturally aware colleagues to evaluate their educational delivery methods via direct observation, video, or audio recording. Other strategies could include incorporating assessment rubrics for prospective nurse educators as a part of the hiring process. A continuous plan of action could also be incorporated in the workplace raising awareness of bias and climate indicators that inhibit success for all minority classes. Cohort relationships can also carry strong importance though the student learner process. Developing methods to encourage healthy male-female relationships within student populations can foster friendships, socialization, and camaraderie that may extend far beyond nursing school. This socialization process has been shown to help diminish stress affiliated with male learners (Bell-Scriber, 2008). Addressing these issues proactively can help reduce the projected nursing shortage expected to grow in the next 20 years both in the in field and education institutions (Barker, 2009).
Understanding the circumstances unique to the male learner is critical to nursing education. How nursing instructors construct their message, encourage interaction, foster relationships is dependent upon identification of the needs of their learners. The nurse educator holds the experience of their students’ learning in their hands. Creating a climate that meets the needs of the male learner can further encourage altruistic purpose and enhance the understanding of nursing in the minds of men. It is true; men are traditionally considering ways to increase income through the field of nursing. By igniting awareness in the delivery process, educators can contribute significant depth and width to male learners understanding. The efforts nurse educators make in delivering meaningful and rewarding education should be more readily understood and appreciated by male learners. In doing so, educators can help develop traits in male learners that may foster an increased interest in delivering those same learned rewards to other prospective nurses.
AACN, (2011). Financial Aid. American Association of Colleges of Nursing. Retrieved December 6, 2011 from
Barker, A. (2009). Advanced Practice Nursing: Essential Knowledge for the Profession. Sudburry, Ma: Jones and Bartlett.
Bell-Scriber, M. (2008). Nursing Education Research: Warming the nursing climate for traditional-age learners who are male. Nursing Education Perspective. 29(3), May/June:143-150. Retrieved December 6, 2011 from
Adams, C., Aucoin, J., Lindell, D., Connolly, M., Devaney, S., Love, A., Ortelli, T., Sharts-Hopko, N., Timmons, M., Zhan, L. (2005). The Scope of Practice for Academic Nurse Educators. National League for Nursing. Retrieved December 7, 2011 from

One thought on “Gender Bias In Nursing Education

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