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Nursing instructors' and male nursing students' perceptions of undergraduate, classroom nursing education : an interpretive ethnographic study Dyck, Jeffery Mark

Abstract

In Canadian schools of nursing, men constitute around 9% of the student cohort. Among the men who attend schools of nursing, rates of attrition are far higher than those of female students. There is little research that addresses the character and quality of male nursing students' educational experiences, nursing instructors' understandings of gender in the context of nursing education and the relationship between gender and the culture of the nursing classroom. This multi-site qualitative study utilized an interpretive ethnographic methodology and was conducted at two large, undergraduate schools of nursing in Western Canada. Data collection consisted of participant observation of 15 classroom teaching sessions (24 hours) followed by semi-structured interviews of between 60 and 90 minutes duration with 6 male, upper level nursing students who were participants in the classes and 6 female nursing instructors who taught the classes. Major themes that resulted from data analysis addressed the role of men in the nursing classroom and the culture of nursing education. The role of men in the nursing classroom was characterized by the theme of playing a different role: relying on traditional masculinities. Men's behaviours aligned closely with traditional masculinities and involved components of leadership, assertiveness, comic relief and risk-taking. The theme of masculinities in a feminine place addressed the sexualized and sometimes stereotyped identity of male nursing students, as well as the fact that they see themselves as being accommodated rather than integrated in the classroom setting. The theme of incongruence between masculinities and femininities involved the disconnect that men perceived between male and female priorities and learning styles, as well as the risks that men face in the maternity clinical rotation and around the use of touch in the clinical setting. These findings suggest that nursing instructors need to consider gender when planning and carrying out their teaching, avoid parody or stereotypes of masculinities, and avoid assumptions that male students are homogeneous. These actions could help lower the attrition rate of male nursing students and offset the nursing shortage. Further research that is longitudinal and which includes data from female students would help enrich these findings.

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