National Nursing Week takes place this week with a theme of “Nursing: You Can't Live Without It!”

The week, running from May 10-16, gives nurses some much needed acknowledgment, including the nurses that do not make up the majority of the workforce, such as males or visible minorities.

Some nurses all over Canada agree that it’s unfortunate that the nursing workforce has so few males and visible minorities, including the president of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, David McNeil.

McNeil has been in the field for 22 years, and is also the Vice President of Clinical Programs and Chief Nursing Officer at the Hôpital régional de Sudbury Regional Hospital.

He said that it is too bad that more minority nurses are not getting into the field, because their uniqueness is extremely valued.

Male nurses are important to help male patients who may not feel comfortable around a nurse of the opposite gender, McNeil said.

Furthermore, visible minority nurses are able to understand and address cultural sensitive topics, such as birth, death, personal space and other customs or traditions.

“When you are a nurse, it is important to understand the culture context of the patient,” McNeil said.

“As we develop cultural diversity in our population, it is important to develop those things in our health policy as well.”

Edmonton born and raised nurse, David Wong, agrees with McNeil.

Being both a visible minority and a male nurse, Wong has been working at the Alberta Health Services Northeast Homecare Office since he graduated in 2008.

He said he too believes that male and ethnic minority representation is lacking and that something like multicultural nurses is extremely important.

“Canada is such a cultural mosaic, there are many people who cannot speak English proficiently,” Wong said. “Having visible minorities decreases communication barriers and greatly increases patient care through proper and effective communication.”

While there is no formal process to encourage more males or visible minorities to become nurses, McNeil said that our culture is taking small steps away from viewing nursing as a female-only field, especially when it comes to representation in the media.

National Nursing Week in Canada is celebrated annually and coincides with International Nurses Day on May 12th, which is also the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birthday.

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