Gender Issues In Nursing Field

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Gender Issues in Nursing Field

There is ample evidence of a bias favoring males as study participants in medical research, but gender bias in nursing research had not been formally studied until recently.

In an earlier analysis of data from studies published in four leading nursing research journals based in North America in 2005-2006, a bias favoring females as study participants was found.

Findings in this expanded analysis of studies published in eight leading journals suggest that gender bias is pervasive internationally in contemporary nursing research; in virtually all countries, females outnumber males as study participants in client-focused research.

This international study also identified two problematic areas in nursing research: (1) researchers' failure in many cases to report the sex distribution of their research samples; and (2) the scarcity of analyses examining sex differences in outcomes.

In the United States, groups of advocates, scientists, and health care leaders drew sharp and critical attention to gender bias in medical research during the 1980s and early 1990s ([LaRosa and Pinn, 1993] and [Woods, 1994]). Many public policy changes occurred as a result of the evidence that women were absent or severely underrepresented in major clinical trials funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH). Although early evaluations suggested that NIH had been slow in implementing new inclusionary policies, more recent studies suggest that NIH's efforts to reduce gender inequities in health research have led to improvements (U.S. General Accounting Office, 2000). Yet, studies continue to monitor the inclusion of women in medical research, and have found the need for ongoing vigilance and progress (e.g., [Geller et al., 2006] and [Murthy et al., 2004]).

Concern about gender bias in medical and epidemiologic research is not restricted to the United States. Over the past two decades, scholarly articles about gender bias favoring males in health care research have been written by clinicians and academics throughout the world, particularly in Europe. Documentation and criticism of gender bias have been expressed, for example, by scholars in the United Kingdom ([Bartlett et al., 2005], [Doyal, 2001] and [Holdcroft, 2007]), Germany ([Fuchs and Maschewsky-Schneider, 2003] and [Jahn, 2005]), Sweden ([Hammarström, 2003], [Risberg et al., 2006] and [Söderström, 2001]), Ireland (Buckley et al., 2007), and Spain (Ruiz-Cantero et al., 2007).

Within the nursing community, concern about gender bias or discrimination is typically voiced in regard to the recruitment and retention of men in the profession, and the potential of “reverse discrimination” (Anthony, 2004). Evans (2004) noted that, despite the fact that men have worked as nurses for centuries, the history of nursing in most countries has been a history of women's accomplishments and has helped to perpetuate “the ideological designation of nursing as women's work” (p. 321). Most nurses are, in fact, women. In the United States, for example, only 6% of registered nurses are men (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2008). In the United Kingdom, the percentage of male registered nurses is a somewhat higher (10%, Buchan, 2008), but nevertheless women appear to be in the majority in the profession in most ...