Frank Baez poses with family and friends after his graduation ceremony. (Credit: Kate Lord/New York University)
Twelve years ago, when Frank Baez was spending his weekends cleaning patient rooms, bathrooms, and hallways at NYU Langone’s Hospital, he couldn’t have imagined that one day he would go from taking care of patient rooms to taking care of patients.
But that’s exactly what’s on the horizon for this recent graduate of NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing.
When Baez was a recent immigrant from the Dominican Republic, he was finishing high school in Brooklyn and learning English, while working part-time in housekeeping to help support his family. So how did he go from working as a janitor to becoming a nurse?
“I worked as a housekeeper for almost 3 years. While cleaning the rooms and hallways, I observed the interactions between health care professionals and patients and felt that a career in health care suits my values and aspirations,” says Baez, now 29.
He began working in health care by being a patient transporter, taking patients for imaging and other testing. During that time, Baez earned a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish literature with a minor in biological sciences at Hunter College.
After graduating from Hunter, Baez got a job as a unit clerk at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital’s special care unit. In this position, he developed a system that improved the process of how patients received their prescriptions after their discharge. While Baez was obviously doing well in his job, he wanted to do even more.
Baez wanted to be a nurse. His colleagues encouraged him to apply to nursing school, and the senior director of nursing even suggested writing his letter of recommendation.
“I became inspired to become a nurse by working with other nurses at NYU Langone Health. Seeing their work on a day-to-day basis and learning how they care for their patients and how they advocate for them inspired me to become one of them,” says Baez.
Frank Baez at NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital
Because Baez already had a degree, he was accepted into the accelerated program at the NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing. During an intense 15-months, Baez earned a degree in nursing with a 3.5+ GPA. He was inducted into the Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing as well.
During his final semester, Baez took the Critical Care Nursing elective, which gave him the opportunity to spend time in the Cardiac ICU. Now, he’s working on a Master’s degree to become an acute care nurse practitioner. “When I took care of my first heart transplant patient, I was impressed by the efficiency and skills of the nurse I worked with,” says Baez. “I also saw the power of medicine and nursing to tide over the patient in critical illness. I want to be a part of that.”
Baez has advice for anyone thinking of becoming a nurse: “I would advise any aspiring nurses to not let any barriers stand in your way. Most importantly, find mentors and coaches. Emulate their attributes and add grit and determination to achieve your goals,” says Baez. “Being in the right place at the right time is just the beginning—one must seize the possibilities. I did.”
While the nursing field is still comprised primarily of women, the male percentage has continued to grow over the years. Minority Nurse interviewed four men, including one nursing student, to ask why they chose this profession. Here’s what they had to say.
After high school, Jesus Adaniel, RN, CRNI, CCHW, wasn’t planning on being a nurse. He joined the military and became an Army Reserve enlisted personnel and trained as an operating room technician. While there, Adaniel discovered that he loved caring for patients, and between that and the influence of his adopted mom, who is a nurse, he changed his college major from pre-engineering to nursing.
Today, Adaniel is the director of nursing and co-owner of BrightStar of Delray Beach as well as an assistant nurse manager for the Trauma Intensive Care Unit of a hospital in Delray Beach, Florida. “Caring for patients is my calling,” he says. After graduating from nursing school, Adaniel became a commissioned officer in the Army Nurse Corp. “I always wanted to work in the critical care and trauma area early on in my career,” he says. “I love the feeling of excitement and the fast-paced atmosphere.”
But it’s not all about how nursing makes him feel. “I am passionate about making a positive impact in the lives of my patients by ensuring and delivering the best care possible,” Adaniel explains. “[Being a nurse] is what I want and love to do. I bring a lot of passion and inspire a desire to make a meaningful change in someone’s life. I value each of my patients as individuals with unique needs.”
Adaniel isn’t the only nurse who came to the field by changing majors. Daniel Satalino is currently a nursing student at Seton Hall Nursing School in South Orange, New Jersey. Satalino began college as a biology-PT dual degree major. But after one semester, even though he did well, he knew nursing was for him. His peer advisor was a nursing student, and he encouraged Satalino to make the switch to nursing. Satalino is glad that he did.
“The thing I love most about nursing is the wide range of opportunities available for you. Whether you love bedside nursing, research, documentation, or want to take it a step higher and become a mid-level provider, there are many specialties that are fit for different personalities, which makes nursing a very diverse field,” says Satalino. “The greatest thing about the profession I have chosen is the ability to help people even if the help may seem minor. The patient will always remember who was at the bedside during their hospital stay.”
Bobby Lucia, MA, RN, LCPC, CT, thought he had found his calling in life. After earning a Master’s in Clinical Mental Health Counseling, he worked as a pediatric counseling specialist at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois, providing counseling services to patients and families affected by chronic and terminal illness. “I loved that counseling had a strong teaching component, and I was able to spend one-on-one time with people,” recalls Lucia.
While working in this hospital setting, he says he was really exposed to nursing. “I liked the unique role that a nurse serves as a care provider, educator, counselor, role model, and advocate,” Lucia says. “The more I became exposed to the nursing profession, the more I knew the nursing profession was my calling.”
About four years into his career as a counselor, Lucia made the decision to become a nurse. He attended Methodist College in Peoria, Illinois, and earned his BSN in the school’s Accelerated Second Degree BSN program.
Lucia now works as the RN clinical coordinator for the Pediatric and Adult Cystic Fibrosis Center at the Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria. “I love that I work with a variety of people—both patients and medical professionals. I get the opportunity to work with pediatric and adult patients in both the inpatient and outpatient settings,” says Lucia. “I love the critical thinking involved with nursing. Taking care of complex patients is like figuring out a jigsaw puzzle. All the pieces are in front of you, but you have to figure out how they all fit together.”
In addition, Lucia loves his co-workers. “I have a great supervisor and fantastic core team,” he says. “I think that having a good support system at work is essential to be successful as a nurse.”
Like Lucia, Ryan Pettit, DNP, CRNA, says that his first career wasn’t nursing either. In fact, he worked in commercial real estate finance and development. So what made him make the change?
“My mother received incredible nursing care during her battle with esophageal cancer. It was then that I realized I wanted to do something in health care,” says Pettit. “Seven years later, I finally took a leap of faith and went back to nursing school. I was attracted to the many opportunities within the nursing profession. My ultimate goal was to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).”
Pettit achieved that goal and now works as a CRNA at both Parkland Hospital in Dallas, Texas and CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Hospital in Tyler, Texas. “I love being able to take care of people during surgery. Anesthesia is a scary thing for most people, and I have the unique opportunity to care for someone during this vulnerable time and allay some of their fears,” says Pettit. “I also do obstetric anesthesia, where I have the privilege of making women more comfortable during their vaginal deliveries by managing their pain.”
He adds, “Taking care of people is incredibly fulfilling. Each shift, nurses have the opportunity to make a difference in their patient’s lives. We have the opportunity to be there during a baby’s first breath and a dying person’s last breath. Not many people can say that.”
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