By BRETT ADAMSON
For Brett Adamson, becoming a nurse was a gateway into helping the world’s most disadvantaged people. In 2005 Brett began working for the medical humanitarian aid organisation, Médecins Sans Frontières. That year was part of an emergency nutrition project in Ethiopia where he spent six months treating kids with severe malnutrition. What followed was a growing sense of responsibility that led him to Afghanistan, where he spent six months treating trauma patients, and more recently to South Sudan working as an emergency nurse in a refugee camp.
Yet despite having helped countless people around the world, Brett still has to defend his decision to work as a nurse in what has traditionally been a female dominated role. Here Brett tells his story hoping to break down the stereotypes associated with the male nurse.
I became a nurse because ultimately I was interested in people. It was a way for me to explore humanity through caring for people.
I had left high school quite early on and had been working for a few years as a furniture maker. But by my early 20s I had a growing sense of responsibility and decided to go into nursing.
Historically the first nurses were male, but that was a very long time ago. Now it’s very much a gender defined role, one that has historically been dominated by women. And the work force certainly reflects that. You are never a nurse; you are the ‘male’ nurse.
We often joke about it in the workforce and it’s definitely a stereotype that is beginning to be broken down. Some specialties like critical care tend to attract more males and in a major city the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) can be an all male staff.
The whole acceptance of the male nurse is culturally based as well. In some cultures relatives of patients I have treated find it incredibly hilarious that you’re a male and you’re not an engineer or a doctor. And in other countries it’s far more accepted for males to be nurses.
My friends were very surprised when I told them I was going to become a nurse. And I still find that I almost have to put up a level of defense when someone asks me what I do. If I say I’m a male nurse I almost get ready to say “and so what?” It’s actually easier to say I work for Médecins Sans Frontières than to say I’m a nurse.