Printed on: April 27, 2013

Defying stereotypes

Male nurses more commonplace in hospitals

By J.E. MATHEWSON
jmathewson@postregister.com

Editor's note: This article is the first in a two-part series about men working in nontraditional professions.

It took a lot of trial-and-error before Rodney Grgich found the right career.

After graduating high school in 1998, the now 33-year-old Idaho Falls resident joined the Army. After he was honorably discharged, he went to work in construction. He then tried his hand as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical services technician.

In 2006, he decided he wanted to be a nurse.

"The construction economy started to fall. My wife (Jodi) said, 'You love being an EMS. Why don't you go to nursing school?'" Grgich said. "I was scared to death (to go back to school)."

Grgich went to Eastern Idaho Technical College to become a certified nursing assistant in 2006.

While working at Fairwinds-Sand Creek Retirement Community in 2007, he continued his schooling to become a licensed practical nurse.

He continued taking classes after he was hired by Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center in June 2008. He will graduate as a registered nurse in December.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's "Men in Nursing Occupations" study, released in February, women still dominate the profession but men are making gains.

The study, which presented data from the 2011 American Community Survey, found that the proportion of male registered nurses had more than tripled since 1970 -- from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent.

Hospital spokeswoman Michele Badrov said male nurses constitute 20 percent of EIRMC's nursing staff.

Nursing Director Dorothy Watson said having a male nurse presence at EIRMC helps alleviate anxiety in the female nurses.

"The testosterone helps the estrogen," Watson said. "Our work is stressful and women, when you have 70 women on this floor, it is stressful; and when we have our guys, it just hums right along. They help balance our anxiety."

Watson said many nurses begin their schooling with the intention of getting their certified nursing assistant or licensed practical nurse certificates.

Watson said she encourages all nurses, whether male or female, to continue their education.

Licensed practical nurses are being phased out at the hospital in favor of registered nurses, she said. That's because licensed practical nurses cannot complete all the tasks of a registered nurse. Watson said EIRMC is finding that hiring registered nurses saves time and money.

Registered nurses also have a better chance at advancing into management, she said.

That's what happened to 38-year-old Travis Evans, also a nursing director at EIRMC.

At 21, Evans was managing a sporting goods store. He decided he wanted a better way to support his family and chose nursing.

"I decided I need to do something ... that I'm going to have good longevity (and) there's going to be jobs out there," he said. "Nursing was just a great fit for me."

Grgich said nursing has been beneficial for his family. He never worries about being laid off due to bad weather as he did when working construction. He said it's also nice because he can work a different schedule than his wife.

"We can kind of stagger our schedules where basically one of us is home at all times (with our children)," he said. "We just make time (for each other) and find ways to keep our sanity."

Reporter Jen Mathewson can be reached at 542-6751.