Men in Nursing

Men In Nursing 2021: Staying Strong

Annual Special Feature

Men now make up about 12 percent of the U.S. nursing workforce, which needs skilled, committed nurses more than ever. As we approach the two-year mark of a public health crisis, Working Nurse talked to 16 nurses at local hospitals about their career journeys, most inspiring patient encounters, and thoughts on superhero nurses.


Alex Aguilar, RN, MSN, PHN, CEN
Emergency Dept. Nurse Educator
Adventist Health White Memorial, Los Angeles

Tell us how you chose your specialty.

While in nursing school, I had a rotation in the ER and loved everything about it, in particular how the nurses and physicians worked together just like clockwork in a fast-paced environment.

What are some of your professional goals?

I’m proud that I became certified as an emergency room nurse. I would like to encourage others to obtain certification in their specialties and further their education. We have lots of amazing people here — if I could do it, they can definitely do it too.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

Most of the patients who come into our ER had nowhere else to go, do not have insurance, do not have a primary physician, and waited until they were very sick before coming in. We do our best to treat and stabilize them and refer them for the care they need. Those patients are so grateful for the services we provide, and their gratitude is very meaningful.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

It was definitely a rough period, but I truly believe it made us stronger and helped us appreciate one another. I was on the front lines during that time, but the experience influenced me to step back and take a breath. I’m now working as an ER nurse educator.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To treat people the way you want to be treated. It’s true of any profession and in all walks of life.


Austin Aguilar, RN
Psychiatric ICU, Della Martin Center
Huntington Hospital, Pasadena

What do you love about your specialty?

Psychiatric nursing involves a lot of getting to know your patients and seeing how their lives are affected by their mental health. It’s rewarding to see patients stabilize and find new ways to cope, manage and live their lives.

What are some of your professional goals?

I hope to achieve board certification as a psych RN, but I also wish to pursue my master’s in nursing, possibly with a focus on nursing leadership or health administration. Please share a meaningful patient experience. Although there’s been progress since I became an RN, mental illness is still heavily stigmatized, even more so for a child or teen who is trying to fit in and find their identity. I have worked with patients as young as 5, and it’s rewarding to help them recognize that their illness doesn’t make them any less of a person. Some people need help, and that’s okay! No one is perfect.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

It’s inspired me to allow myself more time to meditate, decompress and relax. I’ve also been practicing addressing issues right away rather than letting things linger. Sometimes, it’s the small things that need attention right now.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To trust your colleagues and team. Inpatient psych is unpredictable, with many difficult and complex situations, so it’s important to build trust amongst your team members. Communication and teamwork are vital for the safety of our patients and our peers.


Arturo Arriola, RN
Clinical Shift Manager, Cardiovascular ICU
AHMC Anaheim Regional Medical Center

What do you love about your specialty?

I love getting to see a very sick patient transform into a lively, healthy person. The ever-evolving world of cardiac intervention is also fun. There’s always a new device or gadget to make patients’ lives better.

What are some of your professional goals?

An area where I strive to improve is talking to people. Being able to really talk and listen is a skill that takes time to perfect.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

My most memorable experience was when my father underwent open heart surgery. It showed me how important communication is — not only with the patient, but also with their family. Nurse and doctor practices can seem strange from the outside looking in. It was an experience I will never forget, and it has made me a stronger nurse.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

The pandemic reaffirmed that I chose the right path in life. It has also made me cherish my time with my family and friends. Life is about how we spend the time we have.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

A neuro nurse once told me, “Be the duck.” He explained, “When you see a duck swimming, you think he’s just gliding along effortlessly, but below the waterline, his feet are moving nonstop.” That’s how you need to be: Your mind may be moving nonstop, but patients and families need to see someone who is calm and in control of the situation, so they can stay calm.


Erwin James Padolina Balingasa, RN, BSN
MICU/Neurology
Prime Healthcare – Centinela Hospital Medical Center, Inglewood

What do you love about your specialty?

I love being able to see a patient go from a poor prognosis to being alive and awake. Working in MICU has also changed how I see nursing. I’ve seen ICU nurses call the doctor to give orders and recommend plans, working side-by-side with the M.D. or NP.

What are some of your professional goals?

To be able to handle all kinds of critical care cases and make the right choices to help the patient with the knowledge and confidence of an experienced nurse.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

I had a patient admitted for brain cancer. After spending two shifts with him, I came to know him and his life. He knew his time was coming, but he was ready and happy. All I could do was be there for him. It’s crazy to think how much you can learn and experience in just 24 hours with a person. This humbling experience reminded me to enjoy the life I have.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

My nursing experience was born during the pandemic. I had just finished my degree from West Coast University in 2020, and was thrown into the fire as a new grad. In some ways, I appreciate that it allowed me to grow up as a nurse. I had to step up.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To take things day by day, not let past mistakes define you and learn from them so you can do better next time.


Glenn Berdin, RN, BSN
Behavioral Health
Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, Santa Clarita

Tell us how you chose your specialty.

Mental health has been interesting to me since nursing school. At the time, I knew nothing about the specialty. Seeing the stigma of mental illness decrease through the years is what sparked my interest and commitment.

What are some of your professional goals?

Currently, I am trying to learn more about leadership. My short-term goal is to become a psychiatric nurse practitioner.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

The patient experiences that affect me the most are the patients that do not believe they need help and are resistant to care. This is one of the challenges of establishing a rapport between nurse and patient, but being able to see their progression is rewarding. By the time of discharge, it’s like seeing a brand-new patient who is grateful for the care, which is worth it all.

RN Career Events

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

During the pandemic, I learned that isolation was a major problem for people. As nurses, we sometimes forget to take care of ourselves and follow our own advice, but I was able to remain social by connecting with people through technology.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To decompress from work. In this specialty, burnout is a problem for nurses, so it’s important to take a step back and relieve our stress. Some ways I’ve learned to decompress are staying active and maintaining healthy relationships. A positive attitude goes a long way.


Forte Don Buencamino, RN, MN
Lead Nurse, Stroke and Oncology Unit
Methodist Hospital of Southern California, Arcadia

What do you love about your specialty?

Oncology is very personal for me: I lost my mother to lung cancer and saw my father battle prostate cancer. However, these experiences gave me grit and a greater understanding. I also love the stroke aspect of my unit for its complexity and the advancements in treatments and interventions. Stroke treatment has come so far.

What are some of your professional goals?

I’d like to get my SCRN certification and become more proficient in administering chemotherapy. I’d also like to become a PALS [pediatric advanced life support] certified instructor.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

In my second year as an RN, an elderly female patient I was assessing kept staring at me intently, which made me uneasy. When I asked if anything was wrong, she responded, “You remind me of my son.” I was startled and had to step out to collect my thoughts. When I reentered her room, she apologized and thanked me, saying, “Just by seeing you, I remember the fun times I had with my son.” Moments like that remind me that even without any medical interventions, we can bring joy to our patients. How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience? The pandemic has shown the strength, dedication and resiliency of nurses. It has also reminded me how fragile life is and how we should value our friends, loved ones and family.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

My manager loves to say, “There are always two sides of the story.” I apply this wisdom to virtually everything.


Jose Chavez RN Nurse, with personal protective equipment (PPE) in patient room. Mask

Jose Luis Chavez, Jr., RN, DNP, ACCNS-AG, CCRN, AACC
Critical Care CNS, Cardiac ICU and Cardiac Surgery ICU
Cedars-Sinai, Los Angeles

Tell us how you chose your specialty.

My uncle was a critical care nurse and introduced me to the specialty while I was still in nursing school. I love this specialty because being in critical care opens the door to lifelong friendships. It’s also a great feeling to contribute to the early stages of a patient’s recovery.

What are some of your professional goals?

I want to help usher in a new generation of clinical nurse specialists. California lags behind other states in the scope of the CNS role, but that role has become more popular as the pandemic has increased demand for critical care training. There’s definitely room for growth.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

Early in my CNS career, I conducted a class on emergency care for patients with cardiac conduction problems. Months later, one of the nurses who finished my class had a patient who became unresponsive while having symptoms. The nurse initiated rapid response, just like we’d gone over in class, and saved the patient’s life. Afterwards, she thanked me for preparing her for that situation. It helped me see my impact in a different light.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

During the second wave, our team began transforming units that were not previously critical care into critical care units. It was challenging, but I was proud to see people coming together to do the best we possibly could. What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career? To learn from my mistakes, not give up, and try again.


Jose Roman Chavez, RN, BSN
Nurse Manager, Catheterization Lab/Cardiology
Adventist Health Glendale

What do you love about your specialty?

Cath lab is an area where you can really make a difference in saving lives, and patients and families are so grateful for the work you do. Also, this specialty is always evolving: What used to be done with open heart surgery, we can now repair with small access, so patients can go home within 24 hours, with minimal recovery.

What are some of your professional goals?

I am currently completing my master’s in health administration.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

Recently, during senior leadership rounding on postoperative patients, I talked to a patient who had nothing but great things to say about my staff. She said their humor helped her feel at ease while managing her pain, stress and education needs. Our staff deals with some really sick patients. As manager, it’s great to know my nurses and technologists are so dynamic, resilient and compassionate. How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience? The pandemic reaffirmed the importance of the work nurses do every day. Our unit’s postoperative space was converted into an overflow ICU where cath lab nurses volunteered to take care of COVID-19 patients. This resiliency and willingness to help where needed is what I believe the core of nursing and healthcare to be.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

Go where you are needed and don’t be afraid — you can never have more than you can handle. And, when opportunities come around, don’t squander them.


Christopher Fernandez, RN, BSN, PHN, CCRN
Intensive Care Unit
Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital, Los Angeles

Tell us a little about your specialty.

I was an EMT for 10 years, so when I graduated nursing school, I knew I wanted to be in the ICU. I love being a resource for our ER when they have an ICU patient. Floating around to help wherever I’m most needed reminds me of working as an EMT.

What are some of your professional goals?

Becoming a certified flight nurse. I vividly remember helping to create a medevac helicopter landing zone for a multiple casualty incident as a 19-year-old EMT and seeing the flight nurse take off with a critically ill patient.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

I used my personal phone to help a very ill patient contact his family via FaceTime. We had many difficult end-of-life conversations through my tiny iPhone screen. Fortunately, the patient got better. I saw him months later and he still remembered me despite his pretty significant delirium in the ICU. It was amazing to see him walking and talking after all he’d been through. His was one of the most powerful “thank yous” I’ve ever received.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

A surprising and humbling realization was the importance of nonclinical support staff. With the clinical staff overwhelmed just keeping patients alive, it was often the nonclinical staff who gave dying patients and their families the attention and time they so needed. It’s something I’ll never take for granted again.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To combat burnout by finding a hobby vastly different from nursing. I decided to take up spearfishing, which really realigned my work/life balance.


Charles Holland, RN, BSN, PHN, CLNC
Operations Supervisor
Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Van Nuys

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What do you love about your specialty?

I enjoy that my role includes hands-on teaching (I spent eight years as a nursing instructor at a community college), management and facility operations. My favorite part is that I get to be involved with and witness all the nurses performing their respective specialties.

What are some of your professional goals?

I would like to learn more about law as it relates to healthcare issues. I find that learning about subjects that cross over into nursing is a great way to minimize stress.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

One of the most meaningful patient experiences I had was responding to a combative patient who was suffering a schizophrenic episode. I know this is a common scenario, but the next day, I visited the same patient and he said he was sorry. What touched me was that he had received treatment for his condition, and the staff had gained a better understanding of how mental illness relates to patient safety.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

The pandemic was a time of working through code after code and witnessing our staff reach their highest potential. I am grateful for all the staff with whom I worked side-by-side. Now, I know we can overcome any internal or external disaster.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

The saying “Challenging situations happen to those that can handle them.”


Joel S. Kim, RN, BSN, MHA
Chief Nurse Executive
Kaiser Permanente South Bay Medical Center, Harbor City

What do you love about your specialty?

There’s never an opportunity to be bored! I’m also pleased to be able to work alongside nurses and leaders from various service areas and specialties. What are some of your professional goals? Demonstrating that professional success doesn’t have to come at the expense of your personal life. I am certainly guilty of this sacrifice, but it’s something I’m working on. One example is creating “non-negotiables” for myself, like reserving time for my wife and kids’ birthdays and my wedding anniversary.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

One day, a young female patient who’d been labeled “difficult” by many providers was refusing all treatment. I discovered that she was upset because she’d been told she couldn’t play music on her phone speaker because it was disturbing other patients, and she didn’t have headphones. I went to the gift shop and bought her a pair of headphones. Making her feel heard in this way made all the difference, and she was much more cooperative afterwards. When she returned to visit after her discharge, she said she’d kept those headphones because they helped her get through a difficult hospitalization.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

Honestly, I experienced many moments of joy, pride and gratitude despite it being the most challenging and terrifying time of my career.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To not wait until you are in a leadership role to be a leader. As a nurse, you ARE a leader!


Randy Lawrence, RN, MSN, PCCN
Intermediate Care Unit
Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center

Tell us a little about your specialty.

The intermediate care unit is a stepdown unit, so we’re a jack-of-all-trades floor. I see something new every day, which is challenging and very exciting.

What are some of your professional goals?

Being involved with our staff councils has shown me the difference a bedside nurse can make in improving conditions for patients and staff. What I’m hoping to do now is get more people involved.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

I had a congestive heart failure patient with long hair and a big beard. Unfortunately, he had lice, and treatment was ineffective because he had so much hair. He said his beard was part of his image and he couldn’t imagine himself without it, but he eventually allowed me to give him a trim. He was happy with the way he looked, but he was concerned that his clothes had lice, and he had nothing else to wear. I bought him some sweats, which I left by his bed the next morning. He later told me it was like waking up on Christmas morning. He said he felt like a completely new man, which gave him the motivation he needed to get his health in better shape.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

Now that we have the vaccines, it’s not as scary going to work, but we’re tired, especially now that we’re seeing new spikes in cases.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To look for small ways to help patients and make their stay a more positive one.


Semanu Mawugbe, RN
Relief Charge Nurse – Telemetry
Kaiser Permanente Panorama City Medical Center

What do you love about your specialty?

Working in telemetry keeps me grounded and makes me feel lucky on days when half my patients are younger than I am. The vulnerability of the patients matches my compassion and empathy. I always treat patients the way I would want to be treated if our roles were reversed.

What are some of your professional goals?

I am a late bloomer, but I have always wanted to one day earn my doctorate and become an educator, a writer and a motivational speaker.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

Every time I enter my patient’s room for the first time, I am looking for something I can do differently to exceed their expectations. For example, I’ll offer the family a beverage, ask about hobbies or pets, and let the patient talk about themselves while I remain the attentive listener. If they are funny, I’ll match their wit. My patients love when I give them periodic updates about what is going on and the new orders from the doctors.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

The pandemic brought to light how much courage I strive to possess. I have never called out sick since the beginning of this pandemic because I am always thinking about my team and my patients.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

A nurse anesthetist once told me that regardless of what the computer and other instruments may be telling you, LOOKING at the patient will tell you how well your patient is (or isn’t) doing.


Daniel McColeman, RN, BSN, CCRN
Adult Intensive Care Unit
Redlands Community Hospital

What do you love about your specialty?

What I love most is the human connection. Establishing a trusting relationship with a patient and their family can be gratifying.

What are some of your professional goals?

I am on a mission to become a nurse mentor so I can offer the same encouragement and support that has been so abundantly provided to me.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

I had an elderly female patient who had needed multiple surgeries and intubations. She was tired, uncomfortable and not thriving. I tried many things to brighten her day, but she wasn’t having it. My buddy Kevin, who’d cared for her previously, came by her room and started singing, “This old man, he played two, he played knick-knack on my shoe …” When he finished, I clapped and asked if he had any other songs. The patient snapped, “How ‘bout Kevin doesn’t!” She smiled and began to laugh. She passed days later, but finding that moment of comic relief with her was really special.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

The last 18 months have reminded me of the necessity of human connection and looking for moments where I can make a difference for someone, whether at the bedside or as a husband, father, brother, son or friend. What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career? It may be cliche, but “You can’t pour from an empty cup” hits home for me. Allotting time for self-care has made a huge difference in my approach to life and nursing practice.


Freddie Medrano, RN, BSN, CCRN
Assistant Unit Manager, Neuro/CVICU
Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Colton

Tell us how you chose your specialty.

I knew I wanted to become an ICU nurse the day I completed my critical care rotation. I loved that it wasn’t only about being efficient and detail-oriented, but also about compassion and establishing rapport with patients and families.

What are some of your professional goals?

I’ve always aspired to become a CRNA, and am well on my way to applying this winter. Although I love what I do now, I owe it to myself to pursue my dream.

Please share a meaningful patient experience.

I had a patient who’d suffered a gunshot wound to the head and had extensive brain damage requiring aggressive long-term treatment. As the weeks went by, I developed a great relationship with the family. After four months, the patient was able to walk into our ICU to thank us for saving his life. He said he did not remember much of his stay, but did remember that I took care of him, which brought tears to my eyes.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

I had just become an assistant manager, so a lot of my energy was focused on staffing the unit, but I helped the nurses on the floor as much as possible to show them that we were all in it together.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To never be afraid to ask questions and always advocate for those in my care, even if it means questioning a physician. I have always stood by that advice, and I always pass it on to new nurses.


Mike Pamintuan, RN, BSN
Medical-Surgical Wing/Telemetry
Casa Colina Hospital and Centers for Healthcare, Pomona

Tell us a little about your specialty.

I chose to go into the medical-surgical/telemetry unit to develop a strong foundation of knowledge, skill sets, and familiarity with the healthcare system that would prepare me for future endeavors. I love how this unit challenges nurses to develop and maintain our skills, enhance our nursing knowledge, and stay prepared for anything that comes through those doors.

What are some of your professional goals?

I aspire to become a certified orthopedic registered nurse and an orthopedic nurse practitioner. My goal is to eventually become part of a sports medicine team for a professional organization.

How has the pandemic influenced your nursing experience?

As a result of my experience this past year, I truly seek work/life balance. I will continue to fulfill my calling in serving my community, but at the same time, I aspire to be there for my family. This job can take its toll on many levels, and it’s important that when we get home, we be there for our loved ones emotionally and mentally as well as physically.

What advice have you really taken to heart during your nursing career?

To always ask questions. This simple piece of advice reminds me to not just take things at face value and encourages me to think critically about what I see at work, on the news, within our community and elsewhere. I believe that this is more relevant than ever in today’s world.


We asked our Men in Nursing participants: What extraordinary powers should a Super-Nurse have? Here are their answers.


 


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