We Burnout Different

My Experience of Being a Male Nurse – Written By Peter Gichu & Agnes Mwangi

Mwangi has trained as a nurse and has been practising for three years. In the early years of his life, he accompanied his grandfather through his illness, which fueled his desire to be a helper to people. Through his experience with his grandfather, and the patients he has encountered in the past three years, he has concluded that there are three types of patients. According to him patients in this category include:

  1. Patients who don’t know they are sick but are sick.
  2. Patients who know they are sick but lack the means to proceed.
  3. Those who are sick but don’t want to care.           

All of these sum up the fact that illness is not only associated with a condition but may also be sociological, psychological and spiritual. For example, he gave a scenario where a patient is required to forgive someone instead of treatment and soon afterwards, this patient is healed. In such cases, no science can explain the significant events of healing.

Questions asked…..

Do you experience burnout?

Yes, male caregivers do experience burnout. According to Mwangi, this experience is very different from that of females. He says that due to the unique African cultural assumption that men are always strong, it can be hard for men to acknowledge being tired. Mwangi experiences burnout in two ways. First, he may feel drained of energy and second, he may experience difficulty processing information when talking to clients. So when that happens, he takes a mental note to take a break later.

Do you have a self-care routine?

Mwangi expressed that rest for him was found in different activities that align with the different dimensions of wellness. Activities such as cleaning made him feel better and relaxed thus meeting his well-needed physical rest. He finds that life is not hard but rather challenging which aids him in keeping a positive mindset. This practice of positivity coupled with his hobby of reading often helped to relieve him of mental exhaustion.

In addition, Mwangi has an accountability partner who helps him keep tabs on himself and acts as a pillar of support for his emotional wellness. His spiritual life also serves as a pillar in overcoming challenges in his daily life. Mwangi uses the Bible as his point of reference and encouragement. According to him, having God in his life makes things easy. Sharing his thoughts with his accountability partner also enabled him to decompress socially.

How do you deal with stagnant patient progress?

 Mwangi as a nurse often encounters patients who have different beliefs regarding medication and hospitals, which at times serves as a hinderance towards their recovery progress. He recognizes that he cannot control everything but tries to understand the patients and negotiate with them especially older patients. However, he feels that negotiating does not always work with children and thus he is required to use different interventions.

Are there any adjustments you had to make to fit into this career?

Mwangi acknowledged that he wasn’t a person who liked to ask questions. However, being in this field made him see the need to change that about himself and he started asking questions.

How does it feel to be a male nurse?

 Mwangi proposes that being a male nurse can be overwhelming especially because people in this field are expected to have compassion. He suggests that for women, emotions such as compassion are easily expressed but for males that’s not the case. According to some research done regarding gender differences, it was found that men tend to choose logic rather than empathy in comparison to women, and rather approach problems with solutions.

About this study, Mwangi often needs to constantly remind himself that he needs to practice compassion. He gave an example where patients preferred to talk with women nurses especially when it came to bargaining for lower treatment expenses.

Williams, Ray B. “Can Men Be as Empathetic as Women? Research Says Yes.” Medium, 17 Apr. 2020, https://raybwilliams.medium.com/can-men-be-as-empathetic-as-women-research-says-yes-48d5de9f1bf4. Accessed 14 June 2024.

What do you consider as the highlight of your nursing career?

 Mwangi shared that when he was still a resident, he helped in the delivery of quadruplets. At first, they all thought the mother had triplets since the last baby was not visible in the scans. However, to their surprise, there was another one, very little and they helped nurture him until he was fully grown enough to leave the hospital. It was a very exciting moment in his life. And the parent’s reaction was very fascinating because they were all so happy and excited; they couldn’t wait to take the babies home. In addition, they also desired to have more children, having such a huge family all at once didn’t deter them from wanting more children. The birth of these babies was also documented in the newspapers which added to the thrill.

What advice would you give to your fellow male – caregivers?

Speaking from experience, Mwangi encourages other males in caregiving roles to speak out when faced with uncomfortable situations. He also emphasises the need to approach this field with an all-around mindset, in that if you want to do a career in nursing, the reason behind this decision shouldn’t be sorely based on money but that men should be ready to be compassionate.

“ True nursing is power especially when God is backing you up, He gives you insight and discernment into handling situations” D. Mwangi.

According to Mwangi, people must overcome ‘the self’ since we are sometimes our own enemies. He feels that as a nurse, helping people come out of their rigid beliefs or views is one step toward making them their best versions.

In summary, the experiences shared today highlight the unique ways in which men may approach situations and the need to create an environment where men feel comfortable sharing their experiences thus, promoting better mental health and more effective caregiving. By fostering this awareness, we can support male caregivers in their essential roles and promote a healthier, more inclusive understanding of self-care.

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