Nurse

How did you decide which career to pursue?

I was extraordinarily comfortable in my rut. At 27 years old, I was living at home with an idyllic career as a security guard. I had a steady days rotation, which left my evenings free for bodybuilding. I went to the gym regularly as I prepared to enter my first bodybuilding competition in the fall. As comfortable as I was, I was well aware that life was passing me by.

I was insanely jealous of the paramedics I came across while working as a security guard. They wore uniforms, sunglasses, and stethoscopes. They looked so cool, I wanted to be one.

Then, as if by fate, the catalog from Humber College landed in the mail. While flipping through it, I saw they offered a paramedic program. I wanted in. I was going to do it! But a funny thing happened along the way.
The intense competition to enter the paramedic program scared me. I spoke to paramedics who said there were few job prospects. While I was built like The Hulk, I was afraid I wouldn’t pass the physical. Running is not my forte.

My mother thumbed the course catalog and suggested I try nursing instead. “Nursing!” I exploded. “That’s for girls!” But after speaking with a few nurses, watching endless episodes of Trauma: Life in the ER, and reflecting on my dead-end security job, I changed my mind. I applied to the college’s registered nursing program and was accepted.

What helped you begin your career?

Nursing school was a blast. I was older then many of my schoolmates, and as one of four males (compared t0 200 females) I stood out. I excelled academically, and interacted well with my patients. I was always a source of curiosity; a male in a female-dominated profession. The male patients always assumed I was an orderly or a janitor. Meanwhile, the female patients would address me as “doctor,” and when I would correct them and say I was a nursing student, they would inevitably reply, “Oh, okay, doctor.”

Nursing students in my school were allowed to choose between a pediatric rotation or labor and delivery. I choose pediatrics, as it seemed more applicable to my ultimate goal to be an ER nurse. People in pediatrics accepted me like they would any other nurse. I felt as if I were a part of the team. My classmates even campaigned for me, prodding me to ask our instructor out on a date once they found out we were both born in 1972. (She politely declined.)

Who provided the most support as you were getting started?

I took a job in the emergency department, where I met Jeff and Scott. Both male, both nurses they were cool guys who were relaxed about who they were and their career choices. I watched and learned how they coolly corrected anyone who mistook them for the janitor. I watched how they answered when the little old ladies asked if they were trying to go to medical school. They would answer calmly, “Nope, I’m happy being a nurse.”

The female nurses also accepted me as part of the team. Meanwhile, I learned how to eat my lunch amid group conversations pitting pads against tampons. Every once in a while Jeff, Scott, and I would all be on shift together and joke that the balance of testosterone had shifted.

Why is nursing the best job for you?

I have grown to love and adore the women on my shift, and have received the same affection back. I’m often roped into looking at sweaters online being and being asked my color and style opinion. I walk my nursing colleagues to their cars at the end of evening shifts and give man advice about why their teenage son does the things he does. Likewise, I get Valentines Day advice (no chocolate!) and some good nature ribbing that comes with being the rooster in the hen house.

Also, the pay is excellent. I have a nice house on a tree-lined street and am well on track to retire at 55. The work is rewarding. I am able to help when people need it: be it giving life saving medications or simply getting a warm blanket for someone’s Grandma.

There are an abundance of jobs right now, so a post-graduate job is almost guaranteed. Every day, the profession becomes more and more respected.

Any questions or comments about nursing or being a male nurse can be sent to martin.robbins@niagarahealth.on.ca