For nursing students there is one final hurdle after graduation to becoming a nurse – passing the NCLEX. The National Council Licensure Examination is the standard state exam that all graduating nurses must pass in order to start their career as an entry-level nurse.
It can be a stress-inducing time for a young nurse. But there are some things you can do while you’re still in nursing school to lessen the stress on exam day.
Follow these tips to prepare for test day.
1. Study All Through School
First and foremost, don’t wait to begin studying. Use your time throughout nursing school to prepare. “NCLEX tests safety competency and is not a test you can cram knowledge in a short period of time,” says Dr. Joanna Rowe, interim dean of nursing at Linfield College in McMinnville, OR.
Dr. Rowe says there are several study programs available including Kaplan, HESI, and ATI.
Another resource Dr. Rowe recommends is a PassPoint, which can be purchased for $100 for use on your phone or computer. “Students can design their own tests and they can select areas for the program to generate a test. Also, the National State Board of Nursing has an NCLEX study plan they can download that is very inexpensive.”
Dr. Rowe advises students to take practice tests in an environment similar to the one you’ll take the real NCLEX. That means no music, headphones, noise, or anything to drink or eat. Take your practice tests in a quiet, uncluttered space and take the whole practice test in one sitting.
3. Take Time to Review
“Review each question on the practice test even if you got it correct. Look at why you got it correct,” says Dr. Rowe. “Did you know the answer or guess at the answer and does your rationale match the rationale offered? If you got it wrong, why did you get it wrong? Did you not know the answer, read too fast, misread the question, knew parts of the answer but not in depth?”
Taking the time to review after your practice tests will offer key insights that will help you ultimately pass the NCLEX.
4. Take the NCLEX Right After Graduation
Finally, Dr. Rowe advises students to take the NCLEX within six weeks of graduating from nursing school. “The statistics are clear that students who take NCLEX within the first six weeks of graduation have a significantly higher pass rate,” says Dr. Rowe.
The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses held its annual National Teaching Institute and Critical Care Exposition this week in Houston, TX. During the four-day event, 25 acute and critical care nurses were presented with the Circle of Excellence Award, recognizing their efforts to achieve optimal patient outcomes.
Jose Sala, night nurse manager, surgical and liver ICU at Houston Methodist Hospital, was among this year’s honorees.
“I feel so honored and privileged to be a recipient of this prestigious award,” says Sala. “I consider it one of my most rewarding accomplishments. I dedicate it to my family, my former professors, and preceptors, and most importantly, the patients whom I’ve cared for at the bedside during the past nine years. They have been my best teachers.”
Sala earned his BSN in 2012 from the University of Texas Health Science Center at the Houston School of Nursing and feel in love with critical care nursing during his capstone preceptorship in a general medical/surgical trauma ICU in South Texas.
“I was awed and impressed by how knowledgeable my preceptor was about pharmacology, pathophysiology, and patient management,” says Sala. “I saw how she was such an integral part of the critical care team, and how she had finesse, confidence, and a strong rapport with the surgeons and intensivists and all the other professionals in the unit. That two-month period played a seminal role in my journey in critical care.”
In his current role as the night nurse manager in the surgical and liver ICU, Sala has had the opportunity to work on initiatives that have improved not only patient care, but the overall work environment for his team. These initiatives led to his Circle of Excellence award.
He is most proud of his work to develop “flash rounds” in his unit – an initiative that directly impacts patient outcomes.
“Together with Dr. Atiya Dhala, one of our intensivists, and with the support of my director, Michele Ramirez, I implemented what we called “flash rounds” in our unit that focused on the ABCDEF bundle,” explains Sala. “This bundle aims to prevent the unintended consequences of critical illness, including delirium, prolonged ventilation, and excessive muscular deterioration. Every morning, at 8 a.m., each and every bedside staff nurse presented their patient to the team – the intensivists, nurse practitioners, residents, physical therapists, and respiratory therapists – as they rounded on the whole unit. Strictly focusing on these components and separate from teaching rounds, the flash rounds set the tone for the day for the team. This was not only met with much enthusiasm and support by most of our staff, but it also helped increase the mobilization rate, decreased our self-extubations, and reduced our ventilator days.”
Sala has also worked hard to improve his unit’s work environment.
“One of our key challenges in our unit was the rocky transition of our new graduate nurses (GNs) into clinical practice,” he says. “I mentored a group of GNs whose project for their nurse residency program was to create a buddy program that paired upcoming GNs with a buddy (who is a different person from their preceptor). This allowed them to integrate more easily into the culture and fellowship in the unit.”
Sala offers this advice to aspiring critical care nurses: “Work hard and study hard, and don’t lose sight of your goals. When you do rotations in nursing school, or work in any unit, find key mentors who can either directly guide you in the process of becoming a critical care nurse, or introduce you to people who can. Be inquisitive, read widely, and always ask questions.”
During this year’s CRNA Week (#crnaweek), there are many nurse anesthetists who are remembering why they got into the profession, and even more are reflecting on how the face of the profession is changing.
John Bing, BSN, CRNA, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Region 6 director, and national AANA board of directors member, says one of his steadfast missions is to make sure the field continues to attract top nurses, but that it is especially welcoming to aspiring minority nurse anesthetists.
Bing knows first-hand how hard it is being a minority in the field. When he first started out, he was often the only African American in the OR, he says. At times, people assumed he was part of the housekeeping staff. Although he laughs about it now, Bing has made it a direct part of his mission to attract more minorities into this field.
He even takes on leadership positions with the primary goal of making sure he is representing the minorities in the field. “You need to see that in leadership,” he says. “If others don’t see that, they won’t see a place for them. I make sure they see it.”
“Many times you would go in and you were it,” he says of when he started out. “Maybe you were the only one in the hospital or the department. Now you go in and you see a fair amount [of minorities].”
As a president of the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentoring Program, Bing also makes sure his students know why he enjoys this profession so much.
One of Bing’s specific approaches is to make sure he talks to patients as the anesthesia takes effect. He finds out what they like so they can chat about it—sports, cooking, books, kids—anything that helps them relax. “That’s like a sedative,” he says. “It calms them down and they remember that.”
And while he’s monitoring a patient, Bing does exactly what he teaches his students—he assesses his patient over and over and over. “You must rely on your instinct,” he says. During travels with students to countries like Nicaragua, Bing teaches students that not every machine is calibrated the same or even correctly.
“The machine is a guideline,” he says. “You are ultimately responsible for anything that happens. You can’t blame the machine for anything. Look at the patient.”
Bing says that while he’s checking blood pressure every five minutes or so, he is constantly “circling the block,” as he calls it. All the machines are incredibly helpful, but they should only confirm what a nurse anesthetist is seeing, hearing, smelling, and touching.
And getting stale in this profession is not an option, he says. “I say to my students, ‘Tell me how this patient could die today,’” he says. That forces students to look at the big picture and not just look for complications, but to look for other factors that could impact that patient on that day.
Bing clearly enjoys working with his students, but he understands first-hand how sometimes they are not the ones who chose the profession. “The last thing I thought I would be was a nurse,” he says with a laugh. As an African-American, there were few role models that looked like him.
A chance look at a jobs list that revealed six pages of nursing jobs, convinced Bing, an athlete in high school and college, to take a look. Bing says he turned to his buddy he was working out with and said, “We get to be around girls and have a great job!” But he still didn’t expect to land in this field. Eventually, nurses in the recovery room where he worked nudged him to give it a try.
Now, Bing’s mission is to attract minorities into nurse anesthesiology. He speaks to kids in schools, paying special attention to making the field appealing to boys and young men. As it is, 49 percent of nurse anesthetists are male, he says, which is a high number considering less than 10 percent of all nurses are male.
But Bing lets kids know that there are chances to be out on a helicopter go team or even in the midst of trauma situations. “Men like that kind of stuff,” he says and it certainly gets the attention of younger kids who don’t know those possibilities exist.
Add in the good salary, the camaraderie, and the fair amount of autonomy, says Bing, and a career as a CRNA shows kids who might not initially consider a nursing career that the path is open to more possibilities than they ever imagined.
Nurses know first hand just how exciting, unpredictable, and satisfying the career can be. No two days are the same, you’re constantly learning new things, and you have opportunities to connect with and help people in ways you never imagined.
But how can you explain all that to kids so they think of nursing as a career?
Sharing your excitement and your satisfaction over your career is the first step. And then letting them know the detailed reasons (given their ages, of course!), is the next step.
The easiest advice is to just start talking with the kids in your life. Ask them questions. What do they think nurses do? What equipment do they think nurses work with? What do they think might be interesting about a nurse’s job?
A great way to spread the word about nursing is to offer to give a presentation in a local school, library, or youth organization. You would have to tailor your words to the specific ages, but there are lots of ways to do that.
Bring relevant and approved equipment and show kids how it is used. Bring in books (Dr. Scharmaine Baker’s Nola the Nurse books are great for the younger kids) and coloring pages.
While some kids know what nurses do, many don’t have a real understanding of the job and duties. You can explain there are different types of nurses. Talk about your specialty and how you help people. Think of one or two stories that really show how your job is meaningful.
Teens will appreciate stories with more intensity, especially if they can relate to it somehow. You could even base part of the presentation on media images of nurses. The Truth About Nursing is a great resource for that topic. And everyone loves something that will make them laugh, so if you can offer up a story that shows the job is fun, that’s an attention getter.
Make sure kids know what it was like to be in nursing school. Describe what clinicals are like and how you can be out doing real work during your college years. Some kids are especially drawn to the “doing” more than the books, so if you can work in how your student nursing work really helped you and related to what your professors were teaching, it makes the idea of nursing school that much more appealing.
Lastly, think of a quick elevator pitch that can be used for kids. We all know how you should be able to sum up what you do and why it’s important in a quick elevator pitch to colleagues or at a networking event. But if you’re in your scrubs and a youngster unexpectedly asks you what you do, it’s great to have a response. Start by saying, “I’m a nurse. Do you know what a nurse does?” Then sum it up in one or two sentences.
Getting kids interested in a nursing career helps the younger generation understand nursing. More importantly, getting them interested will help ensure a steady pipeline of younger nurses to meet the real growing need for qualified nurses.
Recruiting more minority nursing students is one battle that must be won to increase nursing diversity. Another important battle: ensuring these students graduate and stick with nursing through their first few years when turnover tends to be high. Mentoring is proving to be a critical type of support to help novice nurses steer successfully through early career challenges.
Marisol Montoya, BSN, RN, had one semester left at the SUNY Downstate Medical Center’s College of Nursing when she recognized she needed help navigating the next phase of her career. “I knew I would be walking into a foreign land very soon,” Montoya says. “I would have to take my NCLEX, and then I was going to have to look for a job.”
Thanks to a mentoring program offered through the National Association of Hispanic Nurses (NAHN), Montoya has spent the last year under the tutelage of a fellow Hispanic American nurse, Miriam “Mimi” Gonzalez, BS, RN. Gonzalez was able to provide Montoya with targeted support right when she needed it, drawing on her experiences and connections as one of NAHN’s founding members and a 50-year career as a labor and delivery nurse.
“I believe mentorship relationships are incredibly valuable anytime anyone is going through a transitional period,” says Montoya, who recently started a job as a postpartum nurse at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City. “It is very helpful to have someone in your life who has already done what you’re doing and knows the territory better.”
Culturally sensitive mentorships are proving critical to keeping novice minority nurses in the pipeline, helping to ensure they graduate and stay on the job after earning a degree. Research suggests that minority nursing students tend to feel lonely, isolated, and alienated on top of having financial and academic difficulties—all of which can lead them to drop out.
Student retention programs that offer mentoring and other support tend to have lower attrition rates. For instance, the SCRUBS program at Georgia Southern University increased retention rates among minority nursing students to 95% (from 69%), and NCLEX pass rates to 100% (from 84%), according to a 2013 study in the Journal of Nursing Education and Practice.
Similarly, mentoring can help reduce on-the-job vacancy rates among newly graduated nurses. In the California Nurse Mentor Project, only 8% of new hospital nurses who were assigned a mentor left within a year of being hired, compared to 23% who did not have a mentor, according to a study published in 2008 in Nursing Economics.
The first step for novice nurses looking for support and advice is not to shy away from the experience of mentoring, says Vivian Torres-Suarez, RN, MBA, BSN, director of NAHN’s Mentorship Academy. “I sometimes think people perceive that needing a mentor is like needing a tutor. They see it as a remedial type of thing. And it’s not. It’s about collegiality; it’s about learning from those who have been through a process before us. All of us should be open to it.”
Understanding What Novice Nurses Need
Three years ago, the Washington Center for Nursing (WCN), based in Tukwila, Washington, surveyed local minority nursing students and new graduates to assess their needs. In addition to finding a lack of mentoring programs, the survey identified specific topics that novice nurses were interested in: “The students really needed somebody to help them with work-life balance issues,” says Sofia Aragon, JD, BSN, RN, the executive director of WCN.
Other highly ranked topics on the survey were developing a professional sense of identity, honing leadership and communication skills, and transitioning from education to practice. The diversity committee at WCN also identified lateral violence and bullying as issues that contribute to attrition among minority nurses.
Mentors interviewed for this article stressed that many novice nurses also need help developing practical skills, such as putting together a resume, applying for a scholarship, or sorting out what paid-time-off time is all about. Nilda (Nena) P. Peragallo Montano, DrPH, RN, FAAN, would put time management and critical thinking on the top of the list. “You want them [novice nurses] to learn to think critically and make choices that are best for them,” says Montano, dean and professor at the University of Miami School of Nursing and Health Studies. “The mentor doesn’t always have the solution for the person. The student has to learn how to resolve whatever situation they come across. That’s part of learning.”
The mentees interviewed for this article emphasized how much they appreciated the empathy and encouragement they received from their mentors. “It’s good to have another person constantly telling me, ‘You can do this. I’ve gotten through this. Other nurses have gotten through it,’” says Jasmine Carter, an undergraduate in the nursing program at Arizona State University.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Professional Nursing found that minority nursing students perceived the following traits as the most important characteristics in a mentor:
- a willingness to listen
- enthusiasm for nursing and how the mentor sparks the mentee’s interest
- clarity regarding expectations for mentees
- pushing mentees to achieve high standards
Do mentors need to be of the same race or ethnicity as the mentee? Although research suggests that minority nurses can get effective support from nonminority mentors, many nurses point to the advantages of having a mentor with a similar background and culture. “It’s important because they’ll be more likely to have the same experiences as you than someone who is from another race,” says Carter.
Carter’s mentor, Angela Allen, PhD, CRRN, RN, who teaches culture and health in her classes at Arizona State, agrees: “It’s easier for us to be able to relate when we are from the same ethnic culture, whether African American, Caucasian, or whatever. We can immediately make a connection and say, ‘I know you’ve gone through something similar to what I’ve gone through.’ There’s already a foundation for a relationship.”
Finding a Mentor
Montoya and Gonzalez met at a NAHN speed-networking event for prospective mentors and mentees, or protégés per NAHN parlance. After attending an educational session on mentoring, Montoya spelled out her goals for the mentoring experience and identified a few questions to ask potential mentors. Then she had brief one-on-one meetings with experienced nurses who had volunteered and been selected to be mentors.
“They [the protégés] ask the same questions of each mentor,” says Torres-Suarez, assistant vice president of utilization management at Healthfirst. “Then they walk away with an impression of whether that mentor is somebody they’re going to be able to work with.”
One of Montoya’s questions for the mentors asks, “What do you desire to bring to this relationship, and what do you desire for your mentee in this relationship?” As Montoya recalls, Gonzalez said something like, “I believe one of the biggest things I can bring into your life where you are right now is to connect you to everyone I know.”
This response resonated with Montoya. “In that moment, that was important to me because I felt like everyone whom she [Gonzalez] connects me to will also be a mentor to me. I felt like she was going to provide a village to raise me.”
Formal programs. Formal mentoring programs like NAHN’s is one place for novice nurses to find mentors. So far, about 20 nurses have gone through the association’s year-long Mentoring Academy. Originally piloted at the national level, the program is now being deployed at the chapter level. So far, five NAHN chapters have launched their own programs, and Torres-Suarez hopes to see every chapter create a program.
Similarly, 30 chapters of the National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) have mentoring programs. That’s how Hailey Hannon, MSN, RN, met her mentor. In 2004, when Hannon was a nursing student at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, Denise Ferrell, DNP, RN, who introduced herself to Hannon one day on campus and told her about the mentoring program offered by the NBNA Indianapolis Chapter. Ferrell, who is now president of the NBNA Indianapolis Chapter, became Hannon’s mentor during college and continued to mentor her through her first nursing job.
“I was new to the nursing program, and Denise caught me at a good time when I needed that mentoring guidance,” says Hannon. “At the undergraduate level, I looked to her for encouragement and help balancing work and being a nursing student. She would say, ‘You can do it. Let’s just talk about it.’ Then once I became a new nurse, she introduced me to the professional development side of things, like, ‘How do you find people on the unit that can help benefit you?’ or ‘Are you on any committees on your unit?’”
The NBNA is getting ready to launch a national mentoring program this year that will connect novice nurses, as well as experienced nurses in career transitions, to volunteer mentors from among the NBNA national membership. “This won’t be taking away from the mentoring programs offered by our chapters,” says Allen, who helped developed the mentoring program. “What we want to do is enhance them.”
Many nursing schools also offer various types of mentoring for minority students. For instance, American Indian and Alaska Native nursing students at the Montana State University College of Nursing are paired with a peer mentor and communicate on a biweekly basis as part of the college’s Caring for Our Own Program (CO-OP). Additionally, perspective high school students interested in pursuing a career in nursing can be paired with a CO-OP mentor who will provide them with information on scholarships, educational preparation, and career options, among other things.
Informal engagements. Not all good mentor-mentee relationships spring from formal programs like NAHN’s and NBNA’s. For instance, Carter and Allen met informally at a NBNA chapter meeting. Carter won a scholarship from the chapter, and Allen recognized her potential and decided to take her under her wing. Now, the two regularly talk, text, and e-mail each other.
Torres-Suarez encourages novice nurses to seek out various types of mentors, including informal, short-term contacts. “We have to be constantly open to opportunities to network and connect to individuals,” she says. “You can have an in-depth formal mentorship like in our [NAHN] program. And you can have an informal, five-minute mentorship with someone you just met, somebody that could be a connector for you. You can have sort of an elevator speech prepared to say, ‘I’m a new nurse. I’m not sure where to get a job, and I’m looking for some advice.’”
Torres-Suarez also thinks nurses need to seek mentors from outside of nursing, as needed. “We have to be open to mentors coming from all directions and all walks of life. While nursing mentors are important, we could also get mentoring from people who are in business because, at the end of the day, health care is a business.”
Building a Beneficial Relationship
One of the key steps novice nurses should take before seeking a mentor is to “really understand what their specific needs are,” says Aragon, who has been working to match mentees at two nursing schools with volunteer mentors at the WCN. Developing mentorship goals can help nurses identify and communicate with potential mentors—and find the best mentors for their particular needs.
Aragon shares this example: “When I was getting to know one mentor, she was talking about her journey to be more vocal with other nurses and physicians and a better communicator. She struggled with that but eventually overcame it. Then a mentee said on her application, ‘I really want to find my voice, I’d like someone to help me do that.’ This really helped me match those two up because it seemed like the mentee’s need was exactly what the mentor could give somebody.”
Yet, even the best-matched mentors and mentees need to work at building a durable, beneficial relationship. What helps? The nurses interviewed for this article provide the following lessons learned:
Create a structure that works for you. The exact structure and rules of a mentoring relationship will depend on the program and people involved. One of the requirements of the NAHN Mentorship Academy, for example, is that mentors and mentees agree to communicate with each other at least once a month for a year. Because they both preferred to connect in person, Montoya and Gonzalez agreed to meet for an hour or so before the monthly NAHN New York Chapter meeting. Then, they supplemented their monthly meetings with e-mails and phones calls, as necessary.
During the first few monthly meetings, Montoya and Gonzalez focused on getting to know each other. “We talked about our histories, and I discovered her background in nursing and the history of her life in Puerto Rico and here in the United States,” says Montoya. “When it came closer to me taking the NCLEX, our meetings became more about preparing for the NCLEX. Then we turned to preparing me for my first job interviews. When I got hired, our meetings became about accepting an employment offer. We reviewed all of the paperwork page by page.”
Walk in with intentions rather than expectations. Montoya recommends being open to what can come of a mentoring relationship. “Operate with intentions rather than expectations,” she says. “Know what your intention is. I would say that should be the first conversation that you have [with your mentor], ‘What is your intention as a mentor? What is my intention as a mentee? What is our intention for this relationship?’ Allow that to be your guiding compass throughout the relationship.”
Get personal. It’s virtually impossible for mentors and mentees who have a long-term relationship to avoid talking about personal issues, from money and child care issues to layoffs and illness, says Torres-Suarez. “This is real life. All of those things happen and all those things get addressed as part of the conversation with the mentor.”
Remember, it’s a two-way street. “It has to be a respectful relationship,” says Montano. “It’s not a one-way street where the mentees sit there and expect everything to be given to them.” Montano gives the example of a mentee not showing up for scheduled meetings. “You can’t mentor someone who doesn’t want to be mentored.”
Make use of technology. NBNA’s national mentoring program is gearing up to take advantage of live-chat, texting, e-mail, and other mobile communication technologies, says Allen. This will allow mentors and mentees from different states to communicate. NAHN also uses Skype and other technologies when needed. But Torres-Suarez recognizes the benefit of in-person meetings between mentors and mentees. “Eye contact is an important piece when you’re trying to get to know each other.”
Influencing Generations of Nurses
One argument against mentoring is that it only helps one nurse at a time. But Aragon believes the long-term effects of helping one nurse can multiply exponentially. As an example, she tells the story of the first Filipino American nurse to work in a major hospital in Yakima County, Washington. “She was someone who thought nursing was not in her universe,” yet friends, family, and community members offered her encouragement and paid her nursing school tuition, says Aragon.
“In her lifetime, she’s helped two other nurses go to school and seen the numbers of Filipino American nurses go up over time,” Aragon notes. “So, for me, even though we may only reach a few people by mentoring, just one person could be a champion and really multiply the number of minority nurses a community has.”
While nursing still has many more women working in it than men, more and more men are entering the profession each year. Minority Nurse spoke with some men working in the field to find out what they believe could be done to help recruit more men to work in this great career.
Overall, one of the first things that those in the profession need to do, some say, is eliminate the misconceptions about the field. Daniel Satalino, a nursing student at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, says that there aren’t as many men in nursing because of an ongoing stereotype that nursing is solely a feminine field. “Historically, caregiving was thought to be a primarily female responsibility because the female in the family would nurture infants and be responsible for childrearing, while the male would be responsible for hunting,” says Satalino. “However, many men also participated in caregiving as shamans and spiritual healers.”
Satalino also explains that the roots of nursing come from the Catholic Church and the expansion of the Roman Empire where both nuns and monks alike assumed nursing roles in the hospital setting. Likewise, he says, as the plague spread throughout Europe, the Parabolani—a group of men who assumed nursing roles—were the primary nurses for infected people.
“Despite this, many people proclaim that the rise of nursing came with Florence Nightingale, a well-known English nurse who founded standards for nursing care in the mid-1800s, which are still used today. Nightingale also provided education for nurses. However, no males were allowed to enter the profession at this time,” says Satalino. “An influx of males into modern nursing came during and after the second World War, where male nurses were primarily needed in field hospitals and in psychiatric nursing.”
It’s important to know this history, Satalino says, because men have assumed nursing roles in the past, and they can provide great care like their female counterparts. “There have been many campaigns to increase female participation in STEM fields; however, there have been little-to-no campaigns to increase male participation in nursing,” he explains.
Another misconception is the “old school” view that nurses are physician helpers who give baths and hand out medication, says Larry G. Hornsby, CRNA, BSN, senior vice president of operations for the southeast division of NorthStar Anesthesia in Birmingham, Alabama (the company’s home office is in Irving, Texas). “[It] is simply inaccurate and misleading to what this profession has to offer,” he explains. “It is hard to convince the public of the opportunity that exists today with a degree in nursing and the tremendous variation of work choices and the varied job opportunities that exist.”
Besides getting the word out about men working in nursing and what nursing offers, what else can be done to encourage more men to enter the field?
Recruiting more men into nursing begins with educating them. And the earlier, the better.
Carl A. Brown, RN, BSN, is director of patient care services for BrightStar Care of Central Western Riverside County in Menifee, California. Brown has been in nursing for 27 years, having started as a U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsman and a CNA. “It all starts with education. The younger we approach males about choosing nursing as a career path, the more likely they will consider it,” says Brown. “It should be known that nursing is not a female-only career choice. To counteract this notion, I think more male nurses need to participate in community events, career days, or job fairs. More of us need to be out in our communities advocating on behalf of this profession for males. Furthermore, there should be national campaigns launched by nursing organizations to help create more incentives—like a scholarship—to entice more males into the field.”
Matt George, CNA, at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, agrees. “The nursing field could attract more men by such measures as having a mentorship program for male high school students—allow high school students to shadow male nurses. This way, they can see what a male nurse does,” he says. The same thing could be done for freshmen at college. In order to attract more males, they need to see males working and achieving in the field. The only way to get more men interested in nursing is by reaching them at a young age and showing them this is a career where men work and can be great at it.”
Hornsby also agrees that reaching high school students would help. Aggressive marketing to the male population is needed as well. “Certainly, the growing need and the autonomy for advanced practice nurses is exciting news that everyone, including men, should hear,” explains Hornsby. “Salaries and benefits have improved over the years, and the opportunities for special work are ever-expanding.”
Explain the Benefits
Another way to help recruit men to nursing is to have male nurses explain why they love being in this type of work. Learning from someone doing the work already can be quite influential.
“For me, the greatest thing about nursing has been my ability to be successful outside the ‘traditional’ role of a nurse. The ability to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and practice to the full scope and licensure in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, and physician offices afforded me a tremendous challenge, opportunity for professional growth, and great personal satisfaction,” says Hornsby. “Then moving into a business role and a managing partner/owner of a successful anesthesia management company allowed me to acquire new skills and knowledge, but the opportunity to remain grounded in my nursing roots. Patient care is always at the top of a nurse’s education, clinical training, and a top priority each day. These helped carry me through the business decisions. Other men should really look at the variation of practice roles and how they could fit into an exciting career with growing opportunity.”
Brown has already spoken with a few men who have asked him why he is a nurse. “I tell them that because of my military training, I learned the value of human life and protection our soldiers and sailors. Without those available to fight our enemies, we could not fight to protect those at home,” he says. “In turn, as a nurse today, I tell them that nurses are the most trusted profession there is—more than police, fire fighters, clergy, and educators. We are responsible for ensuring that a father or mother gets back to their children or grandchildren…that we are responsible for ensuring that a family is relieved of the stress of watching their family member pass in distress. Nursing is a field that provides the satisfaction that you have made a difference in someone’s life every day.”