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After Walt Roberts and his wife spent four months at their daughter's hospital bedside following an accident, he decided to switch careers.
He went back to school and trained to become a nurse. In March, the 52-year-old was named Proctor Hospital's Nurse of the Year.
Roberts, who has been a nurse for three-and-a-half years, said he was shocked at the recognition which was awarded by his peers, the majority of whom are female.
"I would definitely recommend other men going into it," he said.
He started considering a career move when the company he worked for moved to Kentucky and he was asked to go along.
"But after my daughter's terrible accident in 2000 when my wife and I spent four months in hospitals 24-7, I saw what kind of care she received and didn't receive, and I knew what I could do for someone else in her position," Roberts said.
At his previous job, Roberts had worked the embossing machine, which printed whiskey and wine labels.
"I should have done this 30 years ago," he said. "I get a lot of satisfaction in helping people."
More men are entering the nursing profession and even though the stereotypes are not completely gone, nursing colleges, both local and national, report a significant increase in male student enrollments.
"We see more and more gentlemen going into the field of nursing and about 20 percent of our workforce is male," said Carol Linett, vice president of patient services and chief nursing officer at Proctor.
They compete equally with their peers, are offered the same opportunities and there appears to be good interaction between both sexes at the workplace.
"I think our nurses tend to judge each other based on their performance and, like any other workforce, make friends with those with whom they have common interests. I think that primarily they're passionate about taking excellent care of their patients."
Lois Hamilton, president of Saint Francis Medical Center College of Nursing, says they have seen an increase in male enrollment at their colleges.
"Five years ago, we were in the teens. This spring, we had 38 males," Hamilton said. "I think it's very important that the male students get the same clinical experience and the same hands-on experience with the patients."
The entry of males does not seem to have caused any friction in the dormitories.
"We used to have 10 male students on one floor by themselves," Hamilton said. "Now we have floors that are coed. Our (resident assistant) is a male."
While both Linett and Hamilton say they recruit the best and brightest into the field, Kimberly Johnston, president of the Methodist College of Nursing says they also actively recruit from among the best male candidates.
"We've identified the males as a minority here and actively recruit them because nursing is, by and large, made up of white females," Johnston said. "Everyone likes to have someone they can relate to culturally or of the same gender, especially in a hospital setting."
She added, however, that "Nursing is a tough sell among the African-American community."
Both Hamilton and Johnston say recruiting should begin at the high school level.
"I've often said if we changed the title from nursing to health care, men would flock to it in droves," Johnston said. "There are so many career opportunities in nursing although men tend to gravitate toward the intensive care unit and the emergency department, but they're equally successful in bedside care."
Although society's perceptions of male and female dominated roles are changing, Johnston said some bias remains.
Some women are adamant that a male nurse not tend to them but they are perfectly content with a male obstetrician.
The administrators say the profession is challenging and offers opportunity for advancement through education. To become a nurse requires an associate's degree.
"They used to say you don't have to be smart to become a nurse," Hamilton said. "Nothing could be further from the truth. It's very challenging, and even some students who have a 4.0 GPA sometimes have a hard time keeping up. And there are plenty of opportunities to continue your education."
The basic requirement for a nurse is a two-year associate's degree. Many continue with their bachelor's and master's courses while working.
Michael Hasten, 25, who has worked in the profession for three years, plans to eventually get a master's degree in administrative anaesthetics.
"That means I would be the one putting people to sleep, under the supervision of a physician," said Hasten, who works in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Methodist Medical Center.
"I've been in it for three years, and I like the intensity and how every day is different."
While he has not faced any overt discrimination, the 6-foot-6-inch Hasten said, "Some people find it hard to believe I'm a nurse because of the stereotypes. But more and more men are going into it because it's a rewarding job."
The elderly female patients seem to like him, he said. Although he generally does not mind the night shifts, his marriage three months ago changes things a little.
"I work from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., 12-hour shifts three times a week," Hasten said. "Laurie works for Caterpillar so she has regular hours and sometimes we don't see each other much."
But he is confident they will soon develop a routine.
Brian Ludlum, 33, who works in the pediatric intensive care unit at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center, cannot envision himself in any other career. He and his wife, Angela, a dean at Washington Community High School, recently adopted a child with medical problems, so both his private and personal life are fully engaged.
Before this, Ludlum used to work in a laboratory environment that he described as boring and mundane. Once he made the switch, he said, "I got on-the-job training and I went straight to ICU. I love what I'm doing. It pays well, and it's a respected profession. I can't imagine doing anything else."
He has not faced any antipathy from patients although he says he can understand if a father would prefer a female nurse attend to his teenage daughter.
"I don't take it personally," he said.
A job shadow opportunity convinced Toufic Khairallah, 28, to go into nursing.
"I was in accounting for two years and said, 'This isn't for me,'" the cardiovascular unit nurse said.
After observing his cousin in the emergency department, Khairallah enrolled in nursing school. He is now a clinical nurse educator working on a master's degree that will make him a clinical nurse specialist who will educate staff and students.
"In the hospital, there are a lot of unknowns," he said. "Saving lives and educating, I feel like I'm doing God's work here on earth."
To those who say that nursing is not macho, Darren Carlock, 45, of Washington retorts, "It takes a man to be a nurse."