Challenging gender stereotypes

Bachelor of Nursing

For Luke Yokota, one of the most challenging aspects of being a male nurse, is not the work, but people’s attitudes towards his choice of profession.

“The very common questions are; are you studying to be a doctor? Was this always what you wanted to do? Is there something else?,” Luke said.

“Most of the time, you just take it on the chin and you don't overreact.

“You say, `Hey, actually in all the professions, allied health, doctors, nurses, any profession you can think of, they've all got a very specific role. None are more important. None are less important. It's just that what you choose to do’.”

His determination to challenge gender stereotypes and show that it’s OK for men to care, saw him nominated as the 2020 Queensland Young Australian of the Year, and also appointed as Chair of the national Men in Nursing Working Party.

But ironically he nearly didn’t go into nursing, because of the push back he first received.

“I actually never thought I was going to be a nurse,” he said.

“I thought I was going to be a civil engineer, architect, something in mathematics, physics, or in the building industry.

"But when senior year hit in Year 12, I thought, I want to be a nurse. They're highly respected. They make a huge difference to the community. And to be honest, I just thought, what better way to actually have a fulfilling career?

“And most people said that was fine. Most people were supportive, but to my dismay, actually a my grandfather said, `Hey, that sounds like a joke’.

"My grandfather is not a bad person but he was influenced to believe that nursing is a female profession."

Luke has since channelled that initial feeling of confusion into his role as Chair of the Men In Nursing Working Party. The group has several objectives which raise awareness of issues associated with men in nursing and is dedicated to improving the nursing workforce to allow for the greater retention and recruitment of men.

As part of this role, Luke has coordinated the publication of an e-book, full of stories from male nurses around Australia, with the hope it will encourage all young men who are considering entering the profession, to do so.

“I would just hope everyone sees everyone as a nurse, but unfortunately there are stereotypes, there are barriers, there are stigmas and that's exactly why we're doing the work we're doing.”

“That's why the 'MEN in nursing' e-book is such a great resource because it's actually role-modelling. It's real men, real experiences, and a real love for the profession,” he said.

“If someone can read that and then slowly but surely get rid of all those old perceptions and ideas, then we've achieved our mission.”

Luke says found his voice to encourage more men into the profession, to not only benefit the diversity of nursing, but also society as a whole. But he’s under no delusions of how long it could take to change people’s attitudes and perceptions.

“It's a long term goal because I'm aware of how it's culturally ingrained into perceptions,” he said.

“This is going to take probably five years, ten years, maybe even a generation.

“So the way we're seeing it is, we're the start of a movement.”

The Griffith University Nursing graduate also continues to give back to his alma mater, as a tutor and mentor, where he passes on his experience as an intensive care specialist nurse at Princess Alexandra Hospital.

“It's a great mix up between doing your clinical work and then on the off days, you can come and give a little bit back as well,” he says.

A Remarkable Tale

Listen to how is his determination to challenge gender stereotypes and show that it’s ok for men to care, saw him nominated as 2020 Qld Young Australian of the Year, and also appointed as chair of the national Men in Nursing Working Party.

Listen to the podcast