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The experience of gay male student nurses: private lives and professional boundaries

Clarke, David 2015. The experience of gay male student nurses: private lives and professional boundaries. Presented at: American Mens Studies Association 24th International Conference on Masculinities, New York, NY, 4-8 March 2015.

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This research explores how male gay student nurses negotiate their masculinity and gay sexuality within the professional boundaries of nursing. Furthermore, it identifies how these students negotiate issues of caring and the formation of therapeutic relationships with their patients, as men and gay men. The aim of my research was to investigate how gay nursing students negotiate their sexuality in the differing spaces of clinical practice and the university. In the UK (NMC 2012) and US (Census 2013) men account for 9-10% of the nursing workforce. Nursing has been a feminized profession since nursing registration/licencing began nearly 100 years ago. Dominant stereotypes about nursing are numerous and the majority of them relate to nurses as women and bring into question women’s sexuality. Additionally, men in nursing face specific stereotypes relating to their masculinity and sexuality (Harding 2007). In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with eight gay male nursing students between 2009 and 2012. The theoretical framing of this research drew upon Goffman's theories of presentation and performance of the self and Rubin’s ‘charmed circle'. Moving between these two analytical frameworks, I examined and drew together the experiences of these students and analysed their negotiation of the nursing role as gay men. I argue that the experience of these students and the negotiation of their sexuality as student nurses is fraught and precarious due to the complexities and boundaries of professional nursing roles in contemporary healthcare. Specifically I argue that the experience of these gay male students in university life is very different to their experience of clinical practice. I argue that the negotiation of the public and the private in clinical practice is a more complex endeavour. What this research has unearthed is the complexity that the gay male nursing students in this study had to negotiate to develop their identity as male nurses. Furthermore, the complexity of these endeavours was not restricted to issues of disclosure or non-disclosure of their sexuality, but much more engrained and fundamental to the development of their performance of nursing and their professional identity as nurses. This presentation will briefly explore the context of men in nursing within Western society before proceeding to present my findings and analysis of how these men negotiated their masculinity and gay sexuality as student nurses. The main focus of my presentation will be how these students negotiated the clinical space of the ward and I will explore how these students sense of ‘self’ as gay men contributed to their conduct of care.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Healthcare Sciences
Last Modified: 22 Oct 2017 21:27

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