Deakin nursing study shows male patients are missing out

Media release
06 March 2018

A one-size-fits-all approach to men's health within the primary health care nursing industry is putting male patients at risk, according to research conducted within Deakin's School of Nursing and Midwifery.

The study found nurses were not addressing the specific needs of men in primary care.

Men's health researcher Dell Lovett conducted the investigation as part of her Masters by Research studies at Deakin, in collaboration with Faculty of Health Associate Dean Professor Trish Livingston, Western Health Deakin Partnership Chair in Nursing Professor Bodil Rasmussen and Monash University's Dr Carol Holden.

Ms Lovett said in-depth interviews with nurses and male patients throughout regional and metropolitan Victoria identified more could be done to help nurses prioritise men's health, leading her to pursue ongoing research into the area.

"Unfortunately we found that a lot of nurses didn't like to discuss sensitive or personal health issues with male patients," she said.

"Male patients aren't the same as female patients – their health needs are different, and nursing practices need to recognise that.

"It's certainly true that men need to seek healthcare earlier than they do, but when they do present they are not engaging well with health care professionals, and are being treated with a one-size-fits-all approach."

Ms Lovett said male patients often showed a lack of understanding of the role of primary health care nurses, and exacerbated the issue by "not wanting to be seen as whingers".

"There are factors of masculinity and stoic culture among men – particularly older men – that cause them to avoid treatment," she said.

"No country in the world has a male life expectancy equal to that of women, and that's not just a matter of genetics.

"Australian blokes tend to think 'she’ll be right mate', but if they presented earlier their survival would be much better."

Though some of the responsibility lay with patients, Ms Lovett said more could be done to address what appeared to be an ad-hoc and opportunistic approach to men's health among some primary health care nurses.

"Men deserve better targeted care than we're currently giving them – we tend to take a much more reactionary approach after the damage has already been done," she said.

"This is a national problem, and we need to talk about it more. When you do manage to get the blokes there you need to take advantage of the opportunity, but nurses don't always have the knowledge and skills to apply action on the spot."

Professor Rasmussen said the study showed more could be done to emphasise the role of male patients and nurses in developing alternative approaches to men's healthcare needs.

"This study – the first of its kind in Australia to explore both primary health care nurses' perception of men's health and men's expectation of the role of nurses – highlighted a gap in perceived nurse education preparedness to embrace the contemporary health needs of men in their care," she said.

"Interviews with both nurses and patients showed the need for an enhanced role for nurses to better engage men in sexual health, assess men's mental health and promote health and illness prevention."

The original article "Are nurses meeting the needs of men in primary care?" was published in the Australian Journal of Primary Health, authored by Ms Lovett, Professor Rasmussen, Professor Livingston, and Dr Holden.

Ms Lovett is continuing her men's health research as a PhD candidate with Charles Darwin University under the supervision of Professor James Smith.

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