As a surveyor, Josh Mueller thought the lay of the economic land didn’t look good.
A slumping economy had left him with little financial stability to build on, he said.
“I was looking to go back to school,” Mueller, 38, said. “I didn’t want to become a victim of the economy again.”
A bum knee made it difficult to find work in the short term.
“I had knee surgery, and I was laid up for a little bit,” Mueller said. “Taking a [certified nursing assistant] course was one of the things I could do.”
Mueller saw nursing as one profession that wouldn’t be shuttered by the economy, he said.
“Nursing is one of the areas of need,” Mueller said.
Neosho County Community College, 900 E. Logan St., Ottawa, has experienced similar growth in the number of men entering its nursing program, Pam Covault said, with 10 men out of 48 students — a little more than twice the national average at 20 percent — enrolled in the program this fall.
“I think that is probably an all-time high,” Covault, a Neosho faculty member since 1991 and the college’s current director of nursing, said. “I think you’ll find more of our males are returning [to school] having done something else. Nursing offers so many opportunities.”
Thomas Franklin, another victim of the teetering construction industry, is one of Neosho’s nursing students who proves Covault’s point.
Franklin, a nearly lifelong Ottawa resident who recently moved to Gardner, said he was looking for a profession that could provide a good income and stability. The average annual salary for male nurses in 2011 was $60,700, according to Census data.
“I was really good in school, but I dropped out and have decided to come back,” Franklin, 36, said. “My whole goal is to become a nurse anesthetist. Another reason I came back [to college] basically was to show my kids I can become something even after I’m older, and give them a role model to look up to.”
Mueller and Franklin are two of the 10 men enrolled in Mary Lisa Josyln’s introduction to nursing course at Neosho’s Ottawa campus.
“I think, culturally, we’re breaking down those stereotypical roles and more men are getting into the profession,” Joslyn, who has been a nurse for 27 years and is the current nursing course coordinator at the college, said. “When I got into nursing [school], there was one male. There were no males in the class before or after me — it was very rare. We’ve really seen a growth in [male nursing students] in the past 10 years.”
Joslyn thinks the economy has played a role in the surging number of men getting into nursing as they look to a new career path that offers a steady income.
“Nursing by and large has been recession resistant,” Joslyn said. “People are still getting sick and needing help.”
Neosho nursing student Casey Ballard said he needed a job and becoming a certified nursing assistant seemed like a good career path.
“I fell in love with the job,” Ballard, who has been working as a CNA at a Lawrence nursing home, said. “I’m doing something that feels like I’m actually helping people out.”
Ballard, whose aunt is the nursing director for a hospital in Alabama, said he would like to become a nurse practitioner.
“I would like to do pediatrics and work with kids,” he said.
In health care today, Covault said, opportunities exist for advanced practice roles in nursing.
“I am thinking about doing emergency services and family care, and if I like it I will look at becoming a nurse practitioner,” nursing student Bobby Carlyle, 33, said. “I love to help people out. I’m one of those people that ends up giving lots of advice in my personal life, so [nursing] seemed like an extension of that.”
Instructor Joslyn said a key component of being a nurse is being a good teacher.
“I have an interest in health and wellness, and I enjoy teaching patients when I work bedside and I enjoy teaching future nurses right now,” Joslyn said. “Nurses do a lot of teaching.”
Joslyn predicted men and women with training as medics in the U.S. Armed Forces could choose nursing as a profession when they return stateside. That is the case with one of her students, Joe Leistner, a U.S. Army medic who did a tour of duty in Afghanistan and currently is in the National Guard.
“I already have a bachelor’s degree in exercise physiology, so nursing is kind of an extension of where I was and a movement toward what I want to do with my career. The end goal requires that I go through this stage first,” Leistner, 31, said. “I am interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, which is more of a director of care. It’s still patient-oriented, and I like the challenge of deciphering the problem, solving the mystery and then directing the care to be performed.”
John Holloway, a nursing student at Neosho, worked in the newspaper industry at the Kansas City Star for 10 years before opting to go down a different career path, he said.
“I was looking for something after this period of helping to raise the kids,” Holloway said. “My wife has an excellent sales job, so it made sense for her to keep with that, but it’s not steady income. It could be a lot one month and not so much the next.”
Holloway was looking for a job that he would find both rewarding and provide consistent cash flow, he said.
“I had a gallstone of all things and it caused pancreatitis,” Holloway said. “I overcame my fear of hospitals, and I really wanted to do something with the rest of my life. I’m in my 40s, and I think people my age — if you’re a male — you were encouraged to be a doctor. Well, I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to go through all that school, but I want to care for people.”
Joslyn affirmed Holloway’s observations about a misconception once associated with being a male nurse.
“A lot of times nurses who are males are asked by the patients, ‘Did you want to be a doctor?’ And many times it’s ‘No.’ They wanted to be a nurse,” Joslyn said.
HEART OF THE PROGRAM
The increase in men entering the nursing field benefits the profession overall, Joslyn said.
“We talk about the personal space of patents, and who they feel comfortable with in that personal space,” Joslyn said. “Sometimes a patient is more comfortable with a female [nurse] and sometimes more comfortable with a male, and it’s nice we are able to offer that to our patients now.”
Holloway, who has worked in a nursing home as a certified nursing assistant, said he wants to care for people.
“I think it’s more acceptable for me to go into nursing,” Holloway said. “I got into a nursing home [as a CNA], and I just loved it. I love caring for people. Male or female, we may have different styles of caring, but anybody can learn that compassion for people.”
Holloway, who developed diabetes because of his bout with pancreatitis, said he is interested in working with diabetics or possibly as a surgeon’s nurse.
Once students complete the introduction to nursing course at Neosho, the next step is the foundations of nursing, Joslyn said.
“These are all the patient normals — this is what you expect with your patient — that’s the foundation in nursing [course],” Joslyn said. “Then the students move on to a higher complexity, in nursing care of the Adult 1 and Adult 2. And then they end with their advanced med surge at the very end of the program — that’s all the abnormals, the very sick. And so we start with what’s normal and generally expected and then we add on with each semester.”
Upon completion of the two-year program, students would receive an associate’s of applied sciences in nursing degree. The community college also offers a certified nursing assistant certificate program, Joslyn said.
“We are classified in Kansas as a bi-level program,” nursing director Covault said. “When finished with the first level, students sit for the PN [practical nurse] national exam. They have to pass that exam to continue in the program. We’re really a RN [registered nurse] program that has the PN option.”
Nursing student Mueller said he finds work as a certified nursing assistant challenging, both mentally and physically, and rewarding. His goal is to continue his education in nursing after completing the two-year program at Neosho County.
“I want to earn a bachelor’s and a master’s [degree] and become a nurse anesthetist,” Mueller said. “I like helping people, and it’s something different every day — that’s important to me.”