The enrolment of 14 men in first year brings the total number of undergraduate males in the BSN program to 36 out of 532 students. Four of the 132 students in the master's program are male.
Barbara Paterson, an assistant professor of Nursing who has done research on the topic of men in nursing, said changes in society are leading to a gradual increase in the number of men entering the nursing profession.
"I think there is a societal trend toward recognizing the value of caring professions," Paterson said. "And the nursing profession is trying hard to better inform people about what nurses do."
The nursing profession has welcomed men into its ranks Paterson said, although in the 1950s and '60s there was some concern that men would dominate upper level or administrative nursing positions.
Mark Zieber, a master's student in Nursing, said his experience has been a good one.
"The general attitude among nurses and nursing faculty that I have encountered has been very positive toward the presence of men in the profession," he said.
Paterson said that some television programs such as the popular hospital drama show ER, which portrays the events in a busy emergency ward, are helping promote a positive image of nurses as professionals and decision makers. But negative stereotypes of shallow or seductive female nurses continue to be reinforced in movies and on television. And, there is a decided absence of male nurses in movies and television shows about health care, Paterson said.
Other perceptual barriers preventing men from entering nursing exist as well, Paterson said. In her study of 20 male nursing students enrolled at various levels in baccalaureate nursing programs, she found that men were concerned about playing the care-giver role.
"Beyond the bimbo stereotype is the stereotype of the nurse as the female care-giver, and men don't automatically associate with that role. They think it will require things of them that they don't have," Paterson said. "The beginning students in my study were concerned that they would have to be very emotional and hug people. They didn't realize that male manifestations of caring are just fine."
Raymond Thompson, the only male professor in the School of Nursing, said a shift in the way society views caring professions, which are often thought of as being "women's work," is needed if men are to stop viewing nursing as a profession that threatens their masculinity.
Thompson first enrolled in a nursing program that attracted a fair number of men in Halifax in 1961, and later did graduate work at the University of Western Ontario where he was the only male in the master's program.
Zieber has also shared the classroom with only a handful of male students and agrees that the general perception of what care is has to change. He also believes men have a very important role to play in nursing.
"The fact that the nursing profession has been predominantly women for many years has tended to steer the perception of what care is," he said. "Males in general do not view their care as being highly emotional, but I have seen many cases where men have been very emotional in giving care."