Promoting diversity in nursing, increasing visibility of our profession

This blog was written by David Ferran, registered nurse and Co-Chair of Valuing Diversity in Nursing Northern Ireland.

My name is David Ferran and I am a registered nurse working in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I am also lucky enough to be taking part in the Nightingale Challenge as a Belfast Nightingale. I am looking forward to the many plans we have to celebrate the vital work of nurses and midwives within our region in 2020, The Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

As part of the Nursing Now campaign in Northern Ireland, I have the pleasure of co-chairing our regions’ Valuing Diversity in Nursing group alongside a senior nursing colleague, Caroline Lee. This work is overseen by our Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte Mc Ardle and she has made this one of three Nursing Now priorities. The other two are homeless health and leadership in nursing and midwifery

There are patient representatives, members of nursing and human resources staff, as well as men from local men in nursing groups from across Northern Ireland who make up the members of our steering group. The aim of the project is multifaceted, as nurses we are great multitaskers and we have certainly put this skill to test over the past year!

The positive impact of increased diversity in any workforce has been well documented and nursing is no different. As the population in Northern Ireland continues to diversify, so do the needs of our patients and nursing should stand ready to meet the needs of those who entrust us with their care. This can be made easier if the nursing workforce is more reflective of the patient population. 

One area of exploration has been men in nursing. The numbers of men on the nursing register has remained largely unchanged for many years. As a young pupil at an all boys’ primary and secondary school,  I had never been exposed to nursing as a career and I was fortunate enough to stumble across the profession by accident, like many other men in nursing.

Our group aims to increase the visibility of nursing. We have brought the profession to young people through school visits in the region. Our aim was to find out more about their perceptions, answer their questions and potentially inspire some future nurses along the way. Unsurprisingly we found that inaccurate perceptions and stereotyping play a large part in deterring in particular young men from exploring nursing as a career. We provided positive role models from within the nursing profession who shared their lived experience of what it means to be a nurse. The reception we have received from pupils, teachers and parents has been amazing.

It is also vitally important that we do not overlook diversity issues for those already within the profession, particularly regarding career progression and those at senior levels. Recent reports have highlighted the progression of male nurses, compared to that of female nurses; we aim to raise these issues at a senior level. We have explored the evidence alongside those with policy-making responsibilities, promoting equality of opportunity, providing senior female nursing role models at our outreach events while ensuring equality for all nurses remains firmly on the agenda. 

The Nursing Now goals have a focus on nursing’s contribution to public health. We have adapted our outreach approach to incorporate this public health focus, using outreach opportunities to share our knowledge of health with the wider public while promoting nursing as a profession. We have provided schools in Northern Ireland with themed visits such as promoting National Restart a Heart Day, providing lifesaving CPR training to classes of secondary school children who really enjoyed the interactive experience. 

We celebrated international nurse’s day with coordinated primary school visits throughout Northern Ireland, teaching young people the importance of handwashing, healthy eating and exercise while giving them the opportunity to become a nurse for the day with their own miniature nurse’s uniform. 

We have provided a nursing presence at a local Breaker Breaker trucking event attended by thousands of members of the public. In memory of a local truck driver, the event aimed to raise awareness of men’s mental health within the trucking community, a community who often struggle to engage with healthcare providers due to the nature of their work. The event was so successful that nurses from Northern Ireland will be joining the trucking community on-board cargo ship sailings in the coming months. Whilst on-board nurses will be sharing their expertise, performing blood pressure measurements and signposting truck drivers to the many vital mental and physical health services available within our region. 

It has been a real privilege to be involved in this work and the response we have received from members of the public has by far exceeded our expectations. It has been a great opportunity to shine a light on the role of the nurse, to challenge perceptions alongside promoting public health. This has only been made possible through the dedication of our many ambassadors for diversity who are so giving of their own time to promote their passion for health and nursing. 

You can find more information about our work here: