Since 2004 Jabari Smith, 21, knew he wanted to pursue a career in nursing. Thanks to the guidance provided by John Garten-Shuman, vice president of enrollment and student services at Samuel Merritt University (SMU), Oakland, CA, more than 6 years ago, Jabari is now on his way.
"John helped me decide on what steps I would have to go through to become a nurse," Smith said. "I like the human anatomy and as a nurse I get to experience that and work in that environment."
After completing his prerequisites at Holy Names University, Oakland, CA, he enrolled concurrently at SMU to finish his nursing studies in the BSN 2+2 program between the two schools. His journey and compassion to become a nurse continues to expand beyond the classroom setting. To showcase the capacity of one person's goodness to affect a large number of people and to 'pay it forward,' Smith joined the SMU Men Allied for Nursing and Education (MANE) and now encourages more male students to consider a career in healthcare.
"I view this program as an opportunity not only to contribute to enhancing the image and participation of males in the nursing profession, but as a means of personal growth and development," Smith said. "The responsibilities I accepted when I agreed to become a participant are now challenges for me to develop organizational skills to attract more males in this profession."
Two weeks after starting SMU, Smith flew to Durham, NC, with fellow MANE members to attend the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) 35th annual conference at Duke University. Jabari joined several of his MANE members as they were honored with the 2010 Best School for Men in Nursing award. SMU was one of four schools to receive the special recognition. The university's school of nursing was cited for its growth in enrollment of male nursing students and graduates as well as its ongoing support for educating males in a field traditionally dominated by females (see Male Nurse Statistics below).
"MANE was recognized for its efforts recruiting and retaining men in nursing, providing men with a supportive educational environment and educating faculty, students and the community about the contributions men have and do make to the nursing profession," said Bob Patterson, MSN, RN, administrative director for the California Institute for Nursing & Healthcare and AAMN board member.
Another criteria MANE met was that the nursing school must have had an NCLEX pass rate of 80 percent or higher for the past 3 years. "Faculty and students work together to ensure students are prepared for NCLEX passage," said Margaret Rivero Early, PhD, RN, associate professor and chair of the BSN program. "We are proud of the accomplishments of our students in this area."
For several SMU students, the AAMN recognition gave a new perspective on how men are taking on nursing as a career.
"I sat in a room listening to stories and the stereotypes and pressures we as male nurses face, and each story gave me that much more confidence and determination to want to receive my BSN RN license and help those whom are in need of care," Smith said.
"I learned people display caring and affection differently," said Chidozie Ibe, BSN student. "The university may not have the most male nursing students, but faculty and staff have never made me feel like I don't belong and this makes the school, in my opinion, a great place for men in nursing."
"Our client population is very diverse and to properly care for them we need to be diverse as well," explained Todd Yee, BSN student and MANE president. "Meeting influential people at this conference made me feel like I can make a change, and that is very important."
"As a nursing student and a mother of a 7-year-old son, I am proud to be a part of something that helps to redefine nursing as a non-gender-specific career," said Rosalyn Sarmiento, BSN student and MANE member.
"The award gives credence to a school that nurtures and supports their male nursing students," added Juner Valencia, BSN, RN, PHN, former MANE president and SMU alum. "I believe SMU will continue to provide an environment not only for male nurses but for their female counterparts as a place to expand and enhance their skills in nursing and promote unity in the profession across gender differences."
In the Spotlight
MANE's effort wouldn't be possible without the support and recognition from the university and school of nursing for its recruitment and support of male students and faculty. The school of nursing has several initiatives regarding male nursing students and wants to foster the university's national recognition as a leader in supporting men in nursing. Male nursing students often are in the spotlight, featured on the university's web site, in school activities and in marketing material. They frequently participate in middle and high school events and local career fairs. Men also play a prominent role in the school's community outreach efforts with male faculty acting as role models and mentors for incoming students.
"These efforts represent a snapshot of the strategies being employed by the university to pique the interest of men and to help break down old stereotypes of nursing as a female-only profession," Early said.
Nursing schools across the country are targeting men and minorities in an effort to boost enrollment and curtail the nursing shortage. Smith plans to make it a career of it. "I plan on going next year to the AAMN conference and show my support for all those who want to change the image of nursing."
Elizabeth Valente is associate director of publications and media relations at Samuel Merritt University, Oakland, CA.
Sidebar: Male Nurse Statistics
According to the institutional research and evaluation office, since 2008 more than 160 male nursing students have graduated from Samuel Merritt University. The first SMU male nurse graduated in 1975, and since then, the health sciences institution has continued to increase the number of male students in its nursing programs. In the last 6 years, more than 400 male students have graduated from SMU's BSN and MSN programs.
In the U.S., women continue to outnumber men by more than 15 to 1 in the overall number of RNs, but among those who became RNs after 1990, there is one male RN for every 10 women, according to the 2008 National Nursing Sample Survey. Despite California's rise from 50th nationally to 45th in nurses per capita, there is still a need to educate more than 200,000 RNs by 2014. California schools of nursing reported that more than 18 percent of those enrolled in 2007-08 are men.