NURSING needs to overhaul its "inaccurate stereotypes" to attract more men to the profession, researchers say.
US researcher Carol Huston said nurses must work with the media to overhaul unfair portrayals such as "hand maidens", "sexual objects" or "battle-axes".
"Some of what has limited males entering has been those inaccurate stereotypes,'' Dr Huston, who was a keynote speaker at this week's Nursing and Midwifery Leadership Conference in Perth, said.
It comes as the latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report into the nursing and midwifery workforce showed WA had the lowest percentage of male nurses in the country at just 8.8 per cent.
Dr Huston, the director of nursing at California State University, said the profession "could only benefit'' from having more men as nurses.
"I think the public has a good understanding of the caring part of nursing, but they could have a better understanding of the science behind our profession and how integral having highly trained and well educated nurses is in terms of patients being able to meet their desired outcomes,'' Dr Huston told The Sunday Times.
"We need to work more closely with the media to make sure the use of the term nurse is used appropriately ... addressing television shows or commercials which focus on stereotypes like hand maidens, or nurses as sexual objects, or nurses as battle-axes.
Edith Cowan University clinical and international nursing co-ordinator Tania Beament said nearly 10 per cent of its nursing students were men, a number that has been increasing over the past few years.
Ms Beament is currently part of a research team with the Department of Health and members of several other universities looking at ways of increasing the numbers of male nurses in WA and "changing the image of nursing''.
A WA Health spokesman said they hoped more young men would choose nursing as a career and were working on a number of strategies.
"We want our nursing workforce to reflect the population we look after, so increasing the number of males is certainly a priority for WA Health,'' he said.
He said the Nursing and Midwifery Office had set a target to increase the number of male nurses in WA to 20 per cent by 2020, and high schools had been given a Men in Nursing DVD and a Mythbusting Nursing and Midwifery book to change attitudes.
ECU nursing student William Chow, 30, started his course this year after finishing a science degree at the University of Western Australia.
"I want to be a part of the workforce that helps other people, making their lives better,'' he said.
Eighteen-year-old James Gill is also a first-year nursing student, following both his parents into the profession.
The new AIHW figures also revealed WA has the second-lowest nurse-to-population ratio.
The national average for full-time equivalent nurses was about 1124 per 100,000 people, while WA sits at just 1064.
Opposition health spokesman Roger Cook said the new figures were embarrassing for WA.
"Even though the Perth population continues to grow at a rapid pace, the Barnett Government is asleep at the wheel and is simply not putting in the hard work needed to make sure we have the health workforce necessary,'' he said.