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Men at work: Two male nursing students set aside gender roles to care for others

In early January, the New York Times published two articles discussing job growth in health care and the perception of those jobs among men. One was titled “Why Men Don’t Want the Jobs Done Mostly by Women” and the other “Job Listings That Are Too ‘Feminine’ for Men.” A week later, we sat down with Jacob Bratcher and Chris Orzechowski, two male students at Research College of Nursing. Both are Foundation scholarship recipients. They quickly revealed that while gender plays a role in the industry, the shared experience of getting through nursing school has created a community instead of a divide. According to Jacob and Chris, all nursing students are striving to provide the best care for patients – and that’s why gender doesn’t matter.

“I don’t care if you’re male or female. When we’re in class, we all look to each other for help. We share study guides and tips. We help each other graduate. It’s that tough. I just want to get through the program and become a nurse,” Chris said.

“Everyone’s along for the same ride. We are all trying to get to the same place,” Jacob added.

Despite what the New York Times might suggest, a sense of comradery has formed among Chris, Jacob and their female classmates. But what about outside of the classroom?

Being a male nurse in a room with a female patient can create uncomfortable situations. Chris described an incident when a patient asked him to leave the room. She was uncomfortable with his presence.

“When you’re sick, you’re sick. They just want help. You just have to accept what they want and go take care of the next person,” he said.

Jacob explained that some patients expect certain things and that age of the patient is a large factor in how he is perceived as a nurse. His friends, however, have no qualms. He isn’t made fun of for being a male nurse, or a “murse.”

“As we grow as nurses, our generation will have grown with us and it will become more accepted. I think it is more accepted now,” Jacob said. “Each person gives the same amount of care.”

In most clinical situations, both students have worked with patients that recognize they are trying to learn their trade and let them practice procedures. Chris recalled placing a heart monitoring device on a female patient for the first time. He was nervous and the gender difference had him worried that his patient was uncomfortable. She sensed his hesitance and replied, “You’re fine, honey. Just do what you need to do.”

Breaking the gender barrier was important to Chris. It gave him permission to focus on accomplishing the task rather than upsetting his patient because of his gender.

Instead of being designed for a specific gender, Jacob and Chris suggested that nursing is better suited for those with certain qualities and characteristics. The New York Times article “Job Listings That Are Too ‘Feminine’ for Men” claims that many health related job listings include language like “sympathetic,” “caring” and “empathetic,” which attracts more women to apply and, therefore, more women to be hired.

“A lot of people assume that women are more emotionally suited for nursing. But if you are going to be a nurse, you can’t be stone cold. You have to be emotionally and culturally sensitive,” Chris said.

He went on to add that a predisposition for nurturing is expected when pursuing nursing. Nursing is an emotionally level playing field for both males and females.

“We go into nursing knowing that we have to be empathetic,” Chris said.” “In fact, we must go beyond simple empathy.”

It was clear that both students didn’t think much about preconceived gender notions within the nursing field. They are there to impact their future patients.

Jacob is at Research College of Nursing because of his dad. During spring break of his senior year in high school, his dad had quadruple bypass surgery. Jacob noticed the care his dad received from nurses played a large role in his father’s speedy recovery. That’s when Jacob realized he wanted to comfort people during tough times, too.

Chris is at Research College of Nursing to emulate the work ethic learned from his mother, who is also a nurse. His mother raised him in an environment that placed value on enhancing the quality of life. He tries to live by her motto, “care greatly for those around you but don’t care what they think of you.” Despite being a male nursing student in a female dominant field, he wants to provide patients hope.

Jacob and Chris have been making a difference because of the Virginia G. Stowers Nursing Scholarship they were awarded for the 2016-2017 academic year. They want to provide for their patients and the two students recognize how much the Stowers scholarship provided them. For Chris, the scholarship encouraged him to see the potential he has as a nurse. For Jacob, the scholarship allowed him to stay at Research College of Nursing.

“I was going to transfer, move home and save money. School was too expensive. But then The Research Foundation scholarship came along,” Jacob said.

The Stowers scholarship gave Jacob the opportunity to stay in the program where he has made friends and professional connections.

“The Stowers are really important people. They have done so much for the medical community. They lead by example,” Jacob said.

Chris and Jacob may not be nursing students of the typical gender, but they are also working hard to lead by example. If more men like Chris and Jacob choose nursing as a career, the stigma of males pursuing nursing careers will soon disappear.