I believe that caring is the essence of my masculine soul. As a young man, others noted my caring nature and teased me for it. I was also confused by my parents’ quizzical reaction when I told them I wanted to care for the sick.
That was 55 years ago in post Victorian England where men were a scarce minority in healthcare, and not accepted into schools of nursing. However, I became a nurse in the United States 35 years ago, having given 20 years of volunteers service caring for others.
Questions I still endure are: why did I not become a doctor, or why did I work with pregnant women and their high risk babies? The soul searching answers did not come easily. In an atmosphere of mistrust that men could not possible understand caring as a woman naturally does, I struggled to find a soul satisfying answer.
The first question of why I did not become a docotr assumed the stereotypical male role of physician, and gave no credence to a feminine perspective of caring through medicine. My answer emerged from my experience of caring through nursing. If women could care through medicine, men could likewise care through nursing. Explanation of such a role switch was not difficult for others to comprehend.
The second question, of my male nursing role in pregnancy, delivery and newborn care, was more difficult to answer. I knew that women I nursed came to rely on such care from me. For example, all too often a hand would reach out to grasp mine with the words: You are not going anywhere until I have had this baby.
However, it required a reflection on my own birth to help me realize that no one knew my gender before I was born, so gender need not be an issue. I was as intimately involved in the process of my birth as my mother and the other caregivers who surrounded her, so closeness need not be an issue.
Therefore I had a natural birthright to return to the place where I was once helped and cared for. With that knowledge, as source of my caring soul, I have never again doubted my nursing career and proudly answer the inevitable questions. I say, I wanted to be a nurse since I was 10, and that I have an essentially human caring right to be in this profession. I now teach nursing at the University of Minnesota and endeavor to pass on the caring essence of nursing with gender, ethnic and age equality, but especially to nurture the caring souls of men.
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