While nursing has been a female-dominated profession for much of U.S. history, that gender imbalance is beginning to even out. According to the Census Bureau, the number of men working as nurses has tripled since the 1970s.
One of those men is Bobby Lucia, a Bradley student and nurse at Children’s Hospital of Illinois at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. He sat down to talk about his experience working in the field as a male nurse.
Thanks for speaking with us, Bobby. To start, how did you decide to pursue a career in nursing?
I didn’t decide I wanted to be a nurse until I was about four years into my professional career. I have a BA in secondary education and a master’s in clinical mental health counseling. I loved that counseling had a strong teaching component and I was able to spend one-on-one time with people. I worked as a counselor in the hospital setting, and it was in this setting that I was really exposed to the nursing profession. I liked the unique role that a nurse serves as a care provider, educator, counselor, role-model and advocate. The more I became exposed to the nursing profession, the more I knew the nursing profession was my calling.
It sounds like it’s been a great career move for you. What is your average day like?
I have a unique nursing role. There are two main components to my job. The first is outpatient specialty care. In this setting, I function as a clinic nurse, which includes check-in, vitals, med rec, brief history and obtaining specimens or labs. The majority of my job, however, brings me to the inpatient setting. I have a couple attending physicians who I work directly with, and my job while in the inpatient setting is to coordinate care for our specific clinic population (both pediatric and adult). When one of our patients is admitted, I’ll get the orders ready, contact consults and round on the patient daily. I typically work as the middle man between the patient and the specialists and ensure that the inpatient care provided is optimal for the patient.
You’ve clearly been trusted with a great amount of responsibility in the workplace, but nursing is still a fairly female-dominated field. What is it like being a male nurse? Do you face any challenges?
It’s hard to describe what it’s like being a male nurse. In school, there were a lot of questions from patients asking why I didn’t want to be a doctor and I did have patients ask why I would want to do a “woman’s job.” Those types of statements did not bother me too much as I took each of the encounters as an opportunity to educate about my role and the changing role of a nurse. Currently, I don’t face very many challenges, as there seems to be more and more male nurses entering the profession. I will say that I do still get the occasional comment that its “weird” that I am a male nurse, but those types of comments seem to come with the territory.
What are your long-term plans for your career?
I’m currently enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice – Family Nurse Practitioner program. My goal when I’m finished is to continue to work in my current clinic (both inpatient and outpatient settings) as a mid-level provider. I’m very passionate about the patients I serve, and I would love to be able to provide an elevated level of care.
Not many nurses have a doctorate. Why did you choose to pursue the degree?
I decided to pursue the DNP-FNP program because I wanted to be able to provide a higher level of care to the patients I serve. I thought that the FNP would be the best avenue to accomplish that goal. I chose the DNP program because I am also interested in clinical research, and the DNP capstone project would allow me to learn a little more about developing doctoral level research.
It’s clear that your career change has opened a number of doors for you. What advice would you give to other men who are interested in nursing?
There are a lot of negative stereotypes that revolve around men in the nursing field. My biggest piece of advice is to ignore them. I know that is easier said than done, but I decided that I would prove my value to the nursing profession through dedication and work ethic instead of trying to defend myself and my career choices. I think the nursing profession is really receptive to men, and I’ve never felt like I did not belong when I was in nursing school or in the professional setting. I think if any man entering the field is nervous or hesitant, I would encourage him to speak to a male nurse who is working in the field.