Nursing as a career choice for women in Pakistan
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This paper reports on semi-structured interviews with 114 Pakistani nurses. This sample comes from a larger long-term study examining the impact of advanced training in Canada on the lives and careers of nurses and lady health visitors from Pakistan. The data reported here were drawn from the first interview with all nurses, and focuses on how and why they chose a career in nursing. Demographically, the respondents (Rs) were more urban and more highly educated than the average Pakistani woman. Compared to the national population, Ismailis and Christians were over-represented and non-Ismaili Muslims under-represented in our sample. Although these ratios are also true of Pakistan's nursing population, the bias has been exaggerated by the convenience nature of our sample drawn primarily from the Aga Khan University Medical Centre. Most Rs found out about nursing through a relative or friend who was also a nurse. Eighty per cent of Rs (n = 92) reported having made the decision to pursue nursing by themselves, illustrating the increasing ability of women to control their own lives in this traditionally patriarchal society. 'Professionalism' was the predominant reason why Rs (or others) decided on nursing, followed by 'Altruism'. These findings are compared to other studies on the career choice of nurses done in non-Islamic societies. Over 90% of Rs reported receiving support from at least one friend or relative for their decision to enter nursing. Nonetheless, over half (58%) also reported that someone, most often a male relative, had opposed their career choice. Our results are discussed in terms of the status of women and nursing in Pakistan.
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