Bridging the Gap: Attracting More Males to the Care Sector

Sunrise  |  July 2, 2020

Michael Chawatama, from Mental Health Nurse to General Manager to Regional Director

Having worked as a General Manager at two Sunrise UK homes, and now in my capacity as a Regional Director, I love how rewarding working in the care sector is. Feeling like you’re making a difference every day is great, and jobs in care offer the opportunity to develop not only professionally, but mentally.

However, I recognise just how few men are entering the sector. For such a worthwhile and fulfilling profession, this is a real shame. Here, I describe my career journey and what I believe needs to be done to encourage more men to consider a job in care.

What working in care means to me

Before joining Sunrise, I trained as a registered mental health nurse and gained experience as a Healthcare Manager within mental health services. I worked within the NHS for ten years, dealing with a range of care areas including eating disorders and personality disorders. Growing up, my mother’s job as a nurse first attracted me to the idea of working in care. I enjoyed listening to her stories of life in the job, and I soon realised that I loved the thought of working in a rewarding environment amidst a mix of people.

Since joining Sunrise in 2017, one of the things that I have come to appreciate most about my job is the diversity of the individuals I encounter. Caring for older people from a range of different backgrounds and life experiences offers such a mix of perspectives that I cannot help but learn and develop from. And it’s not just those placed in our care – the team members themselves are just as diverse. From those who have entered care straight out of education, to those who have worked for years in the corporate sector, every team member has something different to offer Sunrise. Working alongside them makes me feel that I am developing into a more rounded person.

Being a General Manager and now Regional Director means I don’t necessarily have much direct care involvement, but I will routinely work a shift with our team so that I get to see the impact of our care. It is an absolute privilege to look after our residents – they have amazing personalities and build special bonds with our team members, which is always so rewarding to be a part of. Having a ‘daily huddle’ with other general managers and meeting with different departments and residents’ families are also a great way to understand the scope of what we are achieving.

Being inspired by other men in the care sector

One thing that became clear to me when starting my career was how important it is to encounter male role models. I was aware of the lack of men in nursing, but having the opportunity to shadow Dr Peter Carter, the former Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing, really helped to change my perspective. His advice, support and willingness to introduce me to his working life and male colleagues was amazing, and I left completely inspired. When I trained as a nurse in an orthopaedic ward, the male ward manager soon proved to be a brilliant mentor, and I learned so much from watching him interact with staff and patients with confidence and vigour. I soon knew that I wanted to achieve the same.

Sunrise recognises just how important these kinds of opportunities are and works hard to support men who join their team. For any new male recruit, there are colleagues who are always willing to lend support in a friendly and approachable manner. Furthermore, there are a wealth of coaching and career development opportunities. I have always appreciated just how proactive Sunrise’s management are at offering opportunities to develop and work flexibly to the best of my abilities and interests and am keen to now offer the same to any men set to join our team.

Encouraging more men to join the care sector

Yet, I know that we still have a real issue with attracting men to working in care in the first place.

I have always thought about sponsoring male-dominated events like ‘Tough Mudder.’ Sports and endurance events are all about teamwork and achieving the extraordinary – just like working in care. We need to tap into stereotypically ‘masculine’ worlds and challenge conventions by kick-starting conversations about working in care.

To any men who may be considering a career in care, my main piece of advice would be: don’t think twice! If you’re unsure where to start, look for volunteering opportunities with local organisations to ease yourself in. Consider that no matter what your current career is, your skills can be transferable to the care sector. In my interview at Sunrise, I met with the male Director of Operations who had previously worked in the corporate sector for years. Your new career doesn’t even necessarily have to involve direct care – there are so many different roles available, including those in catering, administrative support, general maintenance and activity organisation to name but a few.

Once you enter the profession, you don’t recognise yourself as a ‘male in care.’ The support for a rewarding and compassionate job is there, we just need to ensure more men realise it.

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