Is it Possible to Care for the "Difficult" Male? A Study Exploring the Interface Between Gender Issues, Nursing Practice, and Men's Health
This thesis is about caring for males, especially those males who could be considered "difficult" to care for through their use of behaviours such as silence, anger or defensive humour. This thesis is positioned in the view that these behaviours are often expressions of distress, which typically distance males from those who attempt to care for them. Hence the word "distress" more accurately reflects the theme of the thesis and is used throughout the work. This thesis explores the interface between gender issues, nursing practice and caring for males. It is informed by a review of relevant literature and data gathered from a focus group of nine registered nurses. The analysis is framed by questions that are developed from a series of reflections on my personal and professional life. Critical social theory, with its emphases on dominant dialogue, power and emancipation is used to inform and guide this analysis. What is most obvious is the contrast between themes arising from the literature and those arising from the focus group. It appears that the literature, in the main, is critical of males in regard to concepts of masculinity, issues related to gender, and men's health. Males are portrayed as arbitrators of their own misfortune, as deliberately choosing a lifestyle that reflects poorly on their health, their self-expression, and communication with others. Concepts such as power and control over others, both at a societal and individual level, often feature. Conversely, the literature is noticeably lacking in regard to information about the health related experiences of males and about caring for males. In contrast, the participants of the focus group frame their discussion in the positive. For example, they suggest that males are interested in their health but require an environment that supports this expression of interest. They support this by identifying a range of behaviors they believe are effective in caring for males. The participants also suggest that it is the registered nurse rather than the male who manages issues to do with power and control. The thesis concludes that creating and sustaining an environment supportive of, and sensitive to the needs of males, is an activity that requires considerable thought, skill and experience. These areas are not adequately addressed in academic dialogue, research activity, or in the education of registered nurses. The thesis suggests that this situation is inconsistent with an ethic of care and that nursing should make a priority of broadening its research and knowledge base to better understand and care for males.