Nurses, community health workers, and home carers: gendered human resources compensating for skewed health systems

Glob Public Health. 2008:3 Suppl 1:75-89. doi: 10.1080/17441690801892240.


This review examines the experiences of nurses, community health workers, and home carers in health systems from a gender analysis. With respect to nursing, current discussions around delegation take place over layers of historical struggle that mark the evolution of nursing as a profession. Female community health workers also struggle to be recognized as skilled workers, in addition to defending at a personal level the legitimacy of their work, as it transgresses traditional norms proscribing morality and the place of women in society, at times with violent consequences. The review concludes by exploring the characteristics of, and challenges faced by, home carers, who fail to be recognized as workers at all. A key finding is that these mainly female frontline health workers compensate for the shortcomings of health systems through individual adjustments, at times to the detriment of their own health and livelihoods. So long as these shortcomings remain as private, individual concerns of women, rather than the collective responsibility of gender, requiring public acknowledgement and resolution, health systems will continue to function in a skewed manner, serving to replicate inequalities in the health labour force and in society more broadly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Career Mobility*
  • Community Health Workers*
  • Female
  • Global Health
  • Home Nursing
  • Humans
  • Nurses*
  • Prejudice*