Northern Illinois University recently received the “2017 Best Nursing School for Men in Nursing Award” from the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN) for its commitment to preparing men to be nursing leaders. Since graduating its first male nurse in 1968, NIU has been at the forefront of educating with equity.
Today, men represent 14 percent of the undergraduate nursing class and 12 percent of the graduate students. Male nursing faculty have quadrupled in three years. To further foster an inclusive learning environment, the school hosts a vibrant chapter of AAMN – Northern Prairie Alliance – which hosts activities, community service events and speakers. The NPA also offers nurse mentorships to male nursing students.
Entering the field
NIU now boasts over 300 male nursing school alumni. One of those is Randall Moore II, CEO of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Moore credits his success in part to his beginnings at NIU, where he earned his BSN.
“Being an NIU graduate is something I’m very proud of. It was foundational to my success as a nurse anesthetist and as a leader. I had an outstanding education,” said Moore, DNP, MBA and CRNA.
Moore was not unlike many high school students who aren’t sure what they want to do with their lives.
“I wanted adventure, so I went into the U.S. Army in the infantry basic training. I was interested in combat medics and I gravitated toward them. I became aware of my interest in medicine,” he explained.
It was after he got an EMT license that he took a closer look at the medical field as a long-term career. “There was a nurse anesthetist in the family. I job-shadowed her, and I knew it was for me,” Moore said.
For Scott Johnsen, BSN (’14), his background as an EMT also drove him to an interest in nursing. But it was his sister’s best friend, an NIU student, who recommended the nursing program. He was impressed by the number of men in the program. “We had at least 10, which is significant. It’s not just one token male,” he said.
To further support men in nursing, Johnsen founded NIU’s Northern Prairie Alliance. “Everyone thinks it’s a boys club. That’s absolutely not the case. We have a lot of great participation from all students,” Johnsen said.
Johnsen, a nurse manager for BrightStar Care, a homecare and home health agency, and an AAMN board member, said NIU prepared him well for his career.
“It’s a tough program. You have to be proactive, be sharp and on point. You can’t sit idly by, and that applies to real life. The (NIU) program doesn’t let you sit on your hands. It was a driving force in that way,” Johnsen said.
NIU nursing assistant professor Cristan Sabio agrees. NIU’s program is challenging, Sabio said, but that’s exactly what students need – especially male students who will graduate into a job market at an advantage. Because the field is female-dominated, male applicants are a sought-after commodity. “If you are a male nurse and don’t get a position, I’d be surprised,” Sabio said.
Sabio has witnessed many changes in nursing, and for men in nursing, since he graduated from nursing school in the Philippines in 1990.
“We get more respect now than we used to. The relationship with the doctors has dramatically improved. Now when you work with doctors, you actually work with them, not for them. You collaborate with each other,” he said.
Stereotypes about men being nurses are changing too. As the nursing shortages of the late ’90s brought larger salaries and better job prospects, more men entered the field. And as the profession widens beyond the bedside to include more opportunities for specialization, male and female nursing students are realizing that the profession is a great fit for their life goals. And patients are coming around too.
“I would get patients who would say, ‘It’s so nice to have a male nurse I can relate to.’ It was comforting to them. We represent a different side of the population,” Johnsen said.
When people were slower to accept male nurses, Moore said he didn’t take it too seriously.
“Having a sense of humor about it, as well as being comfortable with the fact that the work you are doing is really important, makes gender stereotypes irrelevant. Allowing someone to get in your head is counterproductive,” Moore said. “A lot of my colleagues and I have fun with it. We call each other ‘murses,’” he added.
Moore says he has seen no discernible differences in the quality of care based on which gender is delivering it.
“Empathy is not a female-specific trait. There are different approaches, but you could say that about doctors or any other profession that has a disproportion. Men may exhibit empathy differently, but at the end of the day, they want the patient to obtain the best quality of life,” Moore said.
20 by 20
The AAMN has begun an initiative to recruit men to the nursing profession, with a goal to have 20 percent male enrollment in nursing programs throughout the world by 2020.
“We are rapidly approaching another nursing shortage,” Moore said. “For the profession to be able to take care of baby boomers, we have to be able to recruit from the other half of the population.”
NIU College of Health and Human Sciences Dean Derryl Block said the AAMN recognition acknowledges the work that the nursing program is doing to encourage men in nursing and confirms the nursing school’s excellent reputation.
“Here at NIU, we are fostering positive role models for men in nursing. This is reflected in our faculty, staff and our curriculum,” Block said. “In order to fill the health care needs of the future, we will need to educate both men and women for careers in nursing.”