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Male nurses: Keen to step out of female shadows

Siya Ngema, is determined to change perceptions of male nurses within society.
Ngema inherited his passion for nursing from his grandmother. (Photo: Supplied)
Written by Health-e News

Males nurses are keen to change the status quo where they are either undermined or looked down upon in communities. They are tired of being called names and want to remind the public that they are just as capable as their female counterparts, writes Pamela Madonsela.

Siyanda Ngema, known as SiyaSpeaks, born and bred in the KwaKhoza Reserve, a village in KwaZulu-Natal is one such nurse. He later moved to Tshwane to further his studies and is currently working as a Nephrology Nurse Specialist at a hospital in Gauteng.

“There is a handful of individuals who look down upon us or undermine the roles of male nurses,” said Ngema.

“We must remember that male nurses are rare in some communities. Some have been accepted while others have received negative treatment from the general public, patients, and multidisciplinary teams. I have been called a lot of names since I took up this profession just because I am male. However, I always just try to focus on the positives.”

Inspired by his grandmother

Ngema, who is currently a master’s degree candidate, holding a Postgraduate Diploma in Nephrology Nursing Science (NMU), and B-Tech Nursing Science (TUT), said his grandmother inspired him to follow in her footsteps.

“Growing up, my grandmother was a nurse who worked in an operating theatre at a local hospital. Sometimes I would visit her and get a chance to observe what they were doing together as colleagues. I was enticed by how she interacted and shared her work experiences with us,” said Ngema.

He said it didn’t take long to realise he’d take up a health-related profession, even though he wasn’t entirely sure which one exactly.

Nursing an obvious choice

“In 2009, I was in Grade 12 and did a background check on the nursing profession. I realised it would align with my values which include respect, Ubuntu, and caring for people.”

His work includes, but is not limited to addressing prevention, promotion, and management of health as well as the well-being of individuals with kidney disease and other related complications.

“Nursing offers endless growth with a variety of specialities that one can venture into. This may be attractive to men seeking to build a stable career within nursing. There is an overwhelming gap in our country – there are 28 000 males registered as males as compared to 250 000 females. I learn from the experienced and strive to be a good role model for junior nurses and those interested in pursuing nursing careers.”

Men’s Health Awareness Month

With November being Men’s Health Awareness Month, Ngema believes that men should take care of themselves and support those whom they are close to.

“This topic is very close to my heart. Self-care is essential. Over the past weeks, I have been on the radio promoting men’s health. I normally use an example of them going to a car dealership to purchase a beautiful sports car. They’ll own it forever and take good care of it right?”, said Ngema.

Lessons learned from COVID-19

Ngema said he learned a lot during the COVID-19 pandemic, “I think we have passed the most difficult part of the current pandemic. I managed to survive throughout by looking at it as a learning opportunity over everything else.”

“We all know that some jobs are more dangerous than others. Ours, as healthcare workers, have been tested during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout, it has been difficult to even take leave from work because of our commitment to save lives. Nevertheless, I have kept a positive spirit hoping ‘Everything will be OK’. It has been difficult seeing patients that we took care of for years and years get sick and lose others in the process. Facing the public, patients, and colleagues, trying to uplift their spirits throughout the pandemic, has been the biggest challenge especially since there were many perceptions towards the pandemic.” he added.

Fear of being average

He said he is always motivated by the fear of being average.

“I strive to learn new things through acquiring new skills, especially sharpening my communication skills, attaining goals and targets, and mentoring others. I refuse to be average, and I think that works for me in making sure I do not sit in my comfort zone for a long time.”

Looking ahead, Ngema aims to find a balance between family, work, and social life.

“Academically, I wish to complete my PhD and become critically involved in the setting of guidelines within healthcare to help improve the livelihoods of South Africans. And lastly, I want to set up a mentorship club where young men can learn from each other, bond and empower each other.” – Health-e News 

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Health-e News

Health-e News is South Africa's dedicated health news service and home to OurHealth citizen journalism. Follow us on Twitter @HealtheNews

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