After graduating from Michigan State University in May of 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences I had firmly decided to pursue additional education to become a physician assistant. I worked hard to earn a competitive GPA and took on a part-time certified nurse aide position during my junior and senior years to meet the direct patient contact hours required by PA schools. Even being surrounded by nurses at work, I never considered nursing. I knew there were “male nurses” but my family and friends (few of whom actually work in healthcare) always encouraged me to pursue medicine. I briefly entertained the idea of becoming a physician but decided that the barriers to becoming one were not exceeded by my personal motivations for entering healthcare. I wanted to work directly with patients in a way that holistically addressed their needs.
My personal life brought me to New York that summer after graduation where I fell in love with the city and the life I was creating with my partner of six years, Cory. I stumbled upon New York University’s College of Nursing website, attended an information session, and still unsure of my desire to attend, submitted an application. I began doing my research and reaching out to learn as much as I could about the nursing profession. I learned that it was in fact a perfect fit my motivations to work in healthcare, and was rich with opportunity for advancement, change, and fulfillment. I withdrew my PA school applications and hoped my single nursing school application would be rewarded with an acceptance letter. I was admitted to the NYU College of Nursing and haven’t looked back since.
With graduation on the horizon I find myself interested in critical care nursing. As a nursing companion at NYP-Weill Cornell I have been exposed to almost every type of unit and have found myself most captivated by the critical care patients and work environment. During one shift I was placed on the cardiothoracic ICU to sit with a patient recovering from a surgical repair of an aortic aneurism. This patient was a frail elderly woman with several co-morbidities and delirium complicated by a language barrier. As I sat with her I was asked to offer sips of supplement shake, help with personal care, and prevent her from removing any of the lines. I was a new nursing student at this point, but was alarmed when the patient became diaphoretic and increasingly agitated. I informed the nurse of my observations and after glancing at the vital sign monitors, she immediately began assessing the patient. The patient continued to decompensate and shortly thereafter the nurse called the team to begin resuscitation. The next 2 hours felt like 15 minutes as I observed the team intubate the patient. I was amazed by the level of knowledge the nurse brought to the situation and the degree of collaboration between medical, respiratory, and nursing staff. I was also shocked by the aggressive nature of resuscitation. When the procedure ended I was again the only person at the bedside and was deeply concerned for the emotional state of the patient as she emerged from sedation. The patient was crying, shivering, and attempting to remove the endotracheal tube. I held her hand and quietly provided comfort by explaining the current situation.
Patients and families in the ICU need care that is competent but also compassionate as this is an exceptionally stressful time. I am excited to learn all that I can about critical care nursing, medical collaboration, and also use my innate sense of empathy and compassion to get patients through their stay with more than a heartbeat and functioning kidneys. As I learn more about the changes taking place in health care I see an opportunity for tangible benefits for nurses who take extra steps to consider comfort and dignity when providing care to the critically ill.
A large part of my personal and professional development during nursing school can be attributed to The New York City chapter of the American Assembly of Men in Nursing. I began attending meetings last year during my first semester and was amazed by the dedication its leaders have in driving the mission forward. The monthly meetings always feature expert speakers who have kept me motivated through the rigors of nursing school by shining light on the limitless opportunities this profession has to offer. In the future I hope to see the organization continue to be an exceptional resource by expanding outreach and collaborating with other professional nursing organizations. Not only will this open our members’ eyes to different facets of nursing, it will also provide an opportunity for male nurses to gain visibility and promote our inclusion in the profession.
Nursing was not my first career choice and I do not think my situation is unique. Many men never consider nursing, or often find themselves here after having other careers. Promoting nursing as a viable career to young men is incredibly important because the future of healthcare depends on smart, compassionate, and motivated young people to meet the needs of an aging population. Removing the stereotype as a female profession will bring the best talent to the nursing regardless of sex.
I’m currently unsure of where my future in nursing lies and I see that as a benefit of becoming a nurse. Other than critical care I find myself passionate about palliative care and the psychosocial aspects of healthcare delivery which nurses are uniquely adapted to implement. I am interested in opportunities for advanced practice but have tentatively decided to stay at the bedside for at least five years. I notice many of my peers are anxious to leave the bedside before they get there but I am excited to learn and develop my nursing skills to their fullest extent.