Future male nurses share positive, challenging experiences

Future male nurses share their experiences and motivations. Photo courtesy of Baylor University

By Tatum Mitchell | Staff Writer

Men are nursing the numbers to new heights. About 12% of registered nurses are now male, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Southern New Hampshire University’s website, the percentage of men in nursing is projected to grow in future years.

The male students of Baylor’s Louise Herrington School of Nursing said they see this growth and have had positive and challenging experiences. Gatesville senior Connor Barrows is a level-four student in the nursing school. Originally, Barrows said he had different plans for his future before he witnessed male nurses in the emergency room when he got sick in high school.

“Something clicked that was like, ‘OK, this looks like something maybe I can do with my future here,'” Barrows said. “And I know I’m helping people; I get to see it on an everyday basis. After that, I [thought nursing] was something I was going to be doing, and here I am.”

Barrows said that in his experience being a man in nursing school, there have been positive and challenging aspects. He said it has not been bad on the academic side of things to be one of few men in class; when professors notice him more, it serves as an opportunity for mentorship, Barrows said.

A lack of men in leadership positions has been a challenge, Barrows said. He said the representation is “not quite there yet,” since significant numbers of men going into nursing is still relatively new.

Kendra Campbell, senior coordinator of academic success at the nursing school, said she tries hard to create a safe and welcoming space for all students with a variety of needs. Campbell said there are good staff resources for students.

“We treat all students the same,” Campbell said. “So much of what they talk about in their nursing education is that they are serving a diverse patient population, and you have to take care of the whole patient the same way we take care of the whole student.”

Campbell said the student body of the nursing school is about 9% male, and the nursing school has been intentional about department growth. In terms of finding support on campus, Barrows said the other men in the program have been a great source.

Waco senior Connor Wright is a level-four student in the nursing school. Wright said his mom is currently a nurse practitioner and was a pediatric nurse for a long time. Growing up, Wright said his interest in science and watching the work his mom did drove him to attend nursing school.

“I really have felt super strongly that helping people is something that God sent me here to do,” Wright said. “I’m really lucky that gets to take form in a lot of things that I’m really interested in.”

Wright said in his time as a man in the nursing school, his experience has not been changed in any significant way. He said it was easy to make friends and connect with others because he stood out.

“Everybody I go to school with is amazing,” Wright said. “I am around the nicest, most sweet, caring and loving collection of men and women that you can find. Sticking out in a group of amazing, beautiful people made it really easy for me to kind of grow more into myself, into who I am now.”

Trumbull, Conn., sophomore Nick Jack is in the pre-nursing program. He said his main draw to nursing was to change the medical field and the world. Growing up, he said he was in the hospital a lot and felt it was his calling to become a nurse.

Jack said it has not mattered to him that nursing is female-dominated. He said he’s been able to acclimate well to the program and has felt welcomed. One of the resources Jack said he utilized is the Future Nurses Association, which provides community and support in the nursing school and for pre-nursing students.

Sahr Mbriwa, chaplain and coordinator of student ministries at the nursing school, said he does a lot of spiritual formation and pastoral counseling for students. He said that when he can create a space for men to come together, it allows them to be more welcomed and transparent with their needs.

“One of the reasons why I have a soft spot for the male nursing students is because I know what it’s like to be in the margins; I know how hard it is to ask for help,” Mbriwa said. “You’re already a nurse, and your job is to go help other people, not ask for help. Even though we know that’s not true, it’s still hard to get out of your head sometimes.”

Mbriwa said he reaches out to male staff to see who the other male instructors are so that he can give students a name to connect with. He said two students reached out in the fall to create a men’s Bible study group, and he is there to encourage them and provide resources.

There is a need for more men in the nursing population, Mbriwa said, and there is an importance for patients to connect with whoever is treating them.

“When you’re serving a group, you want to have it so the people serving can reflect the population in some way,” Mbriwa said. “I mean, you don’t have diversity just for diversity’s sake; you do it so you can more effectively serve the community.”

Jack said gender roles may play a role in the female and male nursing populations. He said the percentage of men in nursing will grow more as time goes on because people should begin to see how distinct the roles of a doctor and nurse are.

“It’s a duo on the same playing field,” Jack said.

Every environment gets better with diversity, Wright said, and God calls people to nursing if they are meant to be on that path.

“I think nursing is so much more of a calling than a profession, and really not something that I think anybody could do,” Wright said. “It’s a crazy thing to sign up for if you don’t feel like God has chosen you to do that, led you to do that. So whatever that looks like is exactly how it’s supposed to be.”