Letter: Nursing takeover

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Jennifer Worth (letter, 11 March) cannot be allowed to get away with using the special position of nursing to conclude that the "vast majority of women want to be dominated by men".

Fifty years ago, general nursing was a wholly female occupation - men were only allowed on the register in 1949 - and all the top nursing posts were occupied by women. Women without husbands or children. The family demands that women face were woefully ignored and the impossibility of combining these and full-time shift-work caused a haemorrhage of well- qualified nurses from the profession.

It was only with the Salmon Report of 1966 that men began to enter nursing in greater numbers. Salmon changed the career structures and training by introducing a managerial and research base which undermined the status of the professional nursing skills developed over 90 years by women. The report explicitly suggested that women's managerial skills were less able to manage nursing than men, despite the example of the founder of modern nursing, Florence Nightingale, who was succeeded by pioneers such as Agnes Jones, Sarah Wardroper and Alicia Lloyd-Still.

It is certainly true that the number of men in top nursing posts is disproportionate to their numbers in the profession. It seems odd that nursing has not been in the forefront of changes enabling women to develop their careers. It should be a fine example to business and commerce of how to benefit from women's skills in the workplace. Why was a truly female profession bullied into believing that men were somehow better at managing it than women are?