In dark navy blue scrubs, they walk around campus. Sleepy-eyed and usually holding a coffee mug, some wear stethoscopes around their necks as they walk to their classes in Marston-Watson Hall. They are the students in the SPU nursing program. Having hours upon hours of readings and clinicals, the SPU nursing students work hard. Among these nursing-major students is minority group — men.
Men are the minority at Seattle Pacific and even more so in the nursing major. There are 11 men out of the 64 students in the first level in the nursing program at SPU and six out of 50 in the second level. Each level of the nursing program represents the number of years the student has been in the program.
Jim Mitre, SPU professor of health sciences, saw a need to bring the men in nursing together, so in 2012, he created the Men in Nursing Luncheon.
“There are 6 percent men in the nursing profession, and to have a role model, there is less than 1 percent of men in the nursing faculty,” Mitre said.
Mitre explained the need for the men to connect in the nursing program so they can feel like they are a part of something.
“Some guys in the past have focused on the academics and haven’t really connected, and it’s hard because you don’t really feel like you are part of a group,” Mitre said. “The guys that dropped out focused only on academics and didn’t connect. There was no place for these guys.”
The men’s group meets for lunch once a month. They eat, hang out and talk about different experiences they have being nursing majors.
“It’s a time where they can come together and say, ‘I have experienced this as a guy. Have any of you?’” Mitre said.
Some of the men in the nursing school have found the meetings helpful.
“Its nice to be surrounded by just all of us guys and all the upperclassmen guys, to hear from them what worked and what didn’t work,” senior Bryan Maruhashi said.
Having a role model to look up to is what senior Tanner Strum said helped him the most.
“I think it goes a long way, hearing a male saying ‘you can do it too,’” Sturm said.
Both Maruhashi and Sturm are in the first level nursing program at SPU. They do their clinicals at The Kenny, a Presbyterian retirement community in West Seattle, where they check residents’ vital signs and help them do daily things they are unable to do by themselves.
While doing their clinicals, Maruhashi and Sturm have found advantages of being a male in the nursing field.
“I think males and females have different perspective on things sometimes, so it helps to have both,” Sturm said.
Maruhashi thinks the diversity of having both genders in the field makes a positive influence on the way nurses care for patients.
“It’s been predominantly female in this profession, so there can be a lot of assumptions or ways of doing things. But as more and more guys come in, you get that different perspective,” Maruhashi said.
Another first-level nursing student, senior Judah Ivy, said it’s important to have men in the nursing field to help the patients feel more comfortable.
“There are probably a lot of situations where a male would want a male to take care of them,” Ivy said, “Since the point of care is to make the patients comfortable and if that can do it, then a man would be the best thing for the job.”
Because SPU is predominately female in general, the guys in the nursing program already feel inoculated to the gender imbalance.
“I haven’t felt really that excluded or anything like that. Which is cool,” Maruhashi said. “All the women have been really welcoming and inviting and considerate that we are the minority.”
Ivy said having the SPU ratio prepared him to be OK in a predominately female environment.
“It helps that the gender ratio is what it is, so it’s not that different from the norm,” Ivy said, laughing. “You are almost already used to that dynamic.”
Some people have the tendency to call men in nursing “male nurses,” which sets them apart from female nurses.
“I think it just shows the reality of it. That there still aren’t a ton of males out there,” Maruhashi said about the term “male nurse.” “I think, eventually. that term won’t be used.”