Former Sheffield nurse speaks of sexism against men in the 1960s

A nurse who worked in Sheffield hospitals during the 1960s has spoken of the 'rife sexism' against male nurses at the time.

Monday, 14th November 2016, 13:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 16th November 2016, 16:15 pm
Mike Bolger

Grandad Mike Bolger, who became a nurse in 1958, shortly after the NHS was founded, has recalled the prejudice against male nurses in new book, Man in a Female World.

As one of the first males in an entirely female profession, Mike's anecdotes and stories show an entirely different National Health Service to the one we know today.

Mike Bolger with colleagues in the 1960s

Mike, aged 76, worked at Fir Vale Hospital - now Northern General - Hallamshire and Lodge Moor hospitals, as well as at Rotherham and Barnsley, during his 40-year career.

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He said: "By today's standards, male nurses were treated pretty awfully. You had to be thick-skinned with a good sense of humour to survive.

"For instance, males weren't allowed to join the Royal College of Nursing union and we'd never get the chance for promotion.

"The consultants, sisters and matrons did not like male nurses. I remember one matron telling me: 'there's something very odd about a man who wants to make beds for a living'.

Mike Bolger with colleague.

"Sometimes the prejudice did get to me. After being called an 'oaf' and 'idiot I'd wonder whether the job was worth it. But you just had to laugh about it really.

"Times were a lot different back then."

Mike said the sexism against males only came from senior authorities at the hospitals - never patients or colleagues.

"My colleges, both male and female, were all very supportive," he said. "The discipline at the time was draconian for all nurses, regardless of gender, so we all stuck together.

Mike Bolger with colleagues in the 1960s

"If you were male, though, you'd be a lot more likely to end up in the firing line."

There was one huge positive to the role, however. Soon into his career, Mike met wife Judith, who was also a nurse, and the couple have three children together.

Mike, of Sharrow, said he was inspired to become a nurse after hearing tales of his father, who had been a medic in World War Two.

He said: "My dad would tell stories of recovering soldiers from the battleground and treating them in tents with bullets whistling past.

Mike Bolger with colleague.

"I knew I wanted to be a nurse straight away. It was a strange career choice for a man at the time, though, as most men went down the pit or into the steelworks."

Mike said he wanted the book aimed to be a 'light-hearted and amusing' insight into the profession at the time.

Man in a Female World can be purchased for £7.99 from Amazon and Lulu.