Clinical Nurse | Cardiothoracic Stepdown Unit, Mount Sinai Hospital
Becoming a nurse was never a childhood dream of mine. I didn’t know any nurses in the area, I didn’t have any nurse friends, and what little I did know of nurses came from misinformed images from the media, depicting sidekick figures who just gave meds and kowtowed to doctors.
I never saw my career coming.
In the fall of 2010 I was a pre-med student at the Macaulay Honors College at CUNY Hunter College. I was going to be a medical doctor. That was it. I was going to fix people’s medical problems and bring honor to my name and to my family. Life was all figured out – done.
One day, however, I happened upon a flyer at Hunter. In the style of the iconic posters of Uncle Sam inviting young people to join the armed forces, the flyer beckoned, “Men, nursing wants you!” I had never considered nursing before that moment. It dawned on me that realistically, a career that sought to diversify by attracting men would welcome me with much more open arms than one that was already chock-full of hopefuls. Truth be told, I never really wanted to be a doctor. I just got excited about the image of medicine, an image simply plastered in front of my face throughout my young life. But when I thought about what I really wanted, it boiled down to this: I wanted to take care of the sick. I wanted to be respectably competent in a health science. I wanted to educate people about health concerns. And bottom-line, I wanted to get to work as soon as possible. Nursing clearly fit the bill, from a practical standpoint.
There was just so much more to it though. I wish I had known sooner.
Nursing school was a journey like nothing else I’d ever faced. Few professions require you to enter the sacred space of intimate professional touch. Placing your hands on another’s body requires a delicate trust. I trust that you’re going to help me. I trust that you know what you’re doing. I trust that you won’t take advantage of me or harm me unnecessarily. Now juxtapose that with me, a total science nerd still trying to figure out his own life. Self-awareness was not my forte at the time. I was a mess. And two years later, I would graduate with hundreds of experiences like that, where trust was at the crux of my nursing activities. I don’t really know how to put it to words properly, but suffice it to say nursing opened my eyes to my own life and to the human condition. You cannot properly care for another person unless you know yourself – your reactions, your values, your strengths, your weaknesses. And you cannot properly care for a person with the sole intention of helping them get better. Sometimes, they don’t get better. Sometimes, they just need someone to be there for them, to listen. Nursing prepared me to meet that frontier with a level head and compassionate heart, and I will take that with me as I march onward in life, always.
Fast-forward to the present day and I’m now a cardiothoracic nurse. So much has happened in so little time, as it usually goes with life. I care for patients who have had open-heart surgery, or are preparing for it. I chose this field for two reasons: First, I wanted to be there for people in a time of dire need. If you need open-heart surgery, chances are that you’re at your last wit’s end, and you need someone who has the skill to tend to your intense physiologic needs while also keeping your spirits up in an ultimately sensitive time. I felt well equipped for that and believed I truly had something to offer. Second, I have to admit it: I’m a nerdy adrenaline junkie. There’s something incredibly exciting about interpreting people’s cardiac rhythms and, within moments of a change, knowing exactly what to do to rectify or at least mitigate the trouble. Does it delay your workflow? Sure. But it’s also powerfully rewarding to have been the clinician who helped save someone’s life in an acute situation. Though I may grumble at times, I can honestly say I love my job. Holding on to that statement for dear life as I consider my next steps!
Speaking of which, you may wonder what I’m looking to do in the near future. To be honest, I’m not sure. I vacillate on the daily: administrator, educator, nurse practitioner, professor...I want to do it all! Currently I’m leaning toward attending Teacher’s College at Columbia University within the next year to pursue a master’s degree in nursing administration studies, less with the intention of becoming an administrator and more with the intention of learning how a hospital runs. I believe in the power of knowing how the system works – because then you can gain the leverage you need to make meaningful change. And ultimately, as a nurse, I know what nurses want at the most basic level: to be able to do your job without major road blocks, to be acknowledged for the strenuous work you have accomplished, and to know your colleagues and supervisors have your back. I want to learn how to help nurses meet those needs and more.
My vision for NYC Men in Nursing is to help the organization engage in service activities more and more as we move forward. And that is why I became the chapter’s Service Committee Chair. It is through service that we learn more about our place in the world – who we are, why we are here, and what we seek to do in fulfillment of our greatest potential. Few things are more precious in life. What better way to work toward these goals than to do it while helping someone else? And furthermore, our solidarity as men in the profession working together will only serve to improve the overall image of men in the profession. This will help people see men as having a true place in nursing and invite the next generation of men to join this incredible profession and bring greater diversity. I invite you to join NYC Men in Nursing in our service activities, and I look forward to seeing what we can accomplish, together.
And to the men who read this post, just remember:
Nursing wants YOU!