Men in Nursing: A Growing Trend


Men in Nursing: A Growing Trend

Interview with Charge Nurse Tuoc Nguyen, Methodist Hospital

By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, CPC, NC-BC
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Where are you employed?
I work at Methodist Hospital of Southern California, located in Arcadia, where I serve as the charge nurse on the respiratory med-surg floor. We specialize in long-term and acute vents, respiratory issues, COPD, pneumonia, CHF, etc. We only treat adults and the majority of our patients are geriatric.

Our floor handles other patients as well, so I also provide care for stroke and MI [myocardial infarction] patients among other conditions.

Please share the history of how you became a nurse.
I attended Rio Hondo Community College for seven years, initially studying accounting and computer information systems (CIS) and finally switching to nursing.

My mom suggested choosing a career and sticking with it. My aunt and sister, both of whom are nurses, sat me down one day and “double-teamed” me into it. They presented what nursing has to offer and they made it very clear that my personality was a very good fit with nursing as a career path. They saw that I like to communicate with others and help people.

I didn’t really take them seriously until they told me I could get four days off every week! Once I started school and my clinical rotations, I totally fell in love with nursing.

What percent of your nursing school class was men?
I’d say that our class was about 15 to 20 percent male.

How did your career begin after graduating from nursing school?
During nursing school, I did several clinical rotations here at Methodist Hospital in Arcadia and I was hired as a new grad a little over four years ago. When I was in school and doing rotations at Methodist, I saw how the staff worked well together, including the CNAs and the nurses. People at Methodist work together as a team; the nurses listen to the CNAs, the doctors listen to the nurses and the nurses cooperate together very well. It was the place for me. Once I was hired, I received three months of one-on-one training with a preceptor plus additional class time and education.

Did you move into a charge position quickly?
I started at Methodist in August of 2009 and served as charge for the first time in July 2010. As charge, you have more power and control, but you also carry more responsibility. About two years ago, I interviewed for a permanent charge position and was fortunate enough to be chosen.

Do you feel comfortable with that level of responsibility?

I’m very comfortable with it. I’m strict with the staff, but I’m also fair-minded.

How does the facility encourage teamwork?
Currently, we’re in the process of changing the system: dividing the floors into three teams each. We’re trying to create a system that’s even more focused on teamwork and cooperation.

What were you told about becoming a male nurse?
Some people said that my gender would be an advantage and that male nurses are very resourceful. I was also told that men don’t get as stressed as women and that male nurses move up the ladder of the profession more quickly. I was also warned that my coworkers might want to share their problems with me. I was advised to listen, but not get personally involved.

Have you ever felt that being a male nurse has caused you to be treated differently in any way by patients or colleagues?
Yes. I sometimes feel that male nurses are perceived as more approachable. Certain members of the staff seem to ask for help from me more readily. They also assume that I know a lot about computers, so people come to me for that kind of assistance. Also, as a man, I’m asked more often to help with lifting and transfers.

When patients have complaints and ask to speak with the charge nurse, 25 percent of them will refuse to speak to me, requesting instead to speak to my supervisor. I’m 29, but I look like I’m in my early 20s, so I actually think it’s more about my age than my gender.

What are the differences in the ways doctors treat male versus female nurses?
I would say that doctors treat the nurses equally, for the most part. It depends on the doctor, of course. I think it has to do with how you present yourself and the information you want to communicate. After four years, I know the doctors well and I understand how to approach them.

Some female nurses will ask me to call a doctor for them because they’re reticent to call themselves. I tell them to make the call, advising them to hand the phone to me if they have any issues that can’t be resolved.

Is there anything else you’ve noticed in terms of nurse-doctor relationships?
Like I said, I look much younger than I am, so some of the docs don’t seem to take me seriously. They’ll sometimes ask to speak to the charge nurse and when I say that I’m the charge, they’ll say, “Are you kidding me?” and won’t talk to me. However, as the doctors get to know me and how I work, they trust me and approach me for any problems or issues they’re having at the hospital.

Have you ever had a patient refuse your care because you’re a man?
Yes, but it’s usually family members of female patients who are uncomfortable and ask for a female nurse, especially if the patient is younger. We’re aware of these issues and respect them. Of course, if we have to insert a Foley or perform some other invasive procedure on a female patient, a male nurse will always be accompanied by a witness.

Considering that about 10 percent of all nurses are men, what percentage of male nurses do you see at your hospital?
I’ve noticed that there are more male nurses in the hospital than ever before. Currently, about 40 percent of our new hires are male. Overall, our hospital’s nurse population is about 20 to 30 percent male. That’s the growing trend that I see.

What are your future career plans?
I’m currently in school to earn my bachelor’s degree from the University of Phoenix, which holds classes at our hospital. There are 15 of my fellow nurses at Methodist taking courses with me. We meet one day a week at Methodist and the rest of our studies are online.

I’d eventually like to move into administration or management, but I still want to work in the ER some day as well. Emergency nursing was one of my dreams during nursing school, but I didn’t have the opportunity to do an ER rotation at that time.  

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