Purpose: To make visible male nurse practice in inpatient rehabilitation in Australia.
Background: Nurses contribute to rehabilitation through a range of nursing activities to teach patients how to care for themselves. This contribution is largely reported from a female or gender neutral perspective. Despite the work of male nurses being explained in a range of other specialities, their work within inpatient rehabilitation remains unexplored.
Methods: Constructivist grounded theory methodology and methods, informed by symbolic interactionism, guided data collection and analysis leading to the construction of a substantive theory. Data were collected from interviews and observation of practice and included male nurse and patient participants.
Findings: Male nurses were mindful of patient perceptions about nursing being an occupation for women and male nurses being perceived as sexual threats, which led to a problem of potential for misinterpretation. To address this problem, male nurses engaged in a three-phase process known as assessing and managing risk in order to minimise risk and to keep themselves safe in practice. However, two contextual conditions, type of care and urgency of care, influenced the need for assessing and managing risk. The substantive grounded theory to explain this is finding a safe way.
Conclusion: Theoretically, gender relations affected the daily working lives of male nurses in inpatient rehabilitation. Interpersonal relationships were used by male nurses to counter the risk of misinterpretation and to enact the range of problem solving strategies, which were largely learnt on the job, that were used to address the barriers encountered in their working lives. However, male nurse efforts were often influenced by conditions outside of their control and they practised cautiously to keep themselves safe in order to practise nursing.