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Men in nursing growing in numbers

McHENRY – JC Jimeno comes from a family of nurses, so it’s no surprise he’s among the growing number of men taking jobs in the field as demand for skilled health-care workers has increased in recent decades.

“My mother is a nurse, my brother is a nurse, my aunt is a nurse,” said Jimeno, a 29-year-old registered nurse at Centegra Hospital – McHenry. “I really found my calling.”

While women still dominate in the profession, the number of men employed as registered nurses has tripled since 1970, from 2.7 percent to 9.6 percent, according to a recent study from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The number of men employed as licensed practical and licensed clinical nurses more than doubled from 3.9 percent to 8.1 percent during the same time period, according to the report, Men in Nursing Occupations, which presented data from the 2011 American Community Survey.

“The aging of our population has fueled an increasing demand for long-term care and end-of-life services,” said the report’s author, Liana Christin Landivar, a sociologist in the Census Bureau’s Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch. “A predicted shortage has led to recruiting and retraining efforts to increase the pool of nurses. These efforts have included recruiting men into nursing.”

Jimeno, of Carpentersville, said he considered pay, job security, and opportunities for advancement before pursuing a career in nursing.

In 2011, the U.S. had 3.5 million employed nurses. About 3.2 million of them were women, according to the Census Bureau report released last month.

High demand for nurses means unemployment rates are very low. For nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetist, the unemployment rate was 0.8 percent. It was slightly higher for registered nurses (1.8 percent) and licensed vocational nurses (4.8 percent).  Nationally, the unemployment rate for all workers hovered around 9 percent in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

The Census Bureau report found that, as in all other occupations, men tend to earn more than women, though the pay gap was smaller than in other occupations.

On average, men nurses earned $60,700 per year in 2011 compared to $51,000 for women nurses. To put it another way, women working full-time as nurses earned 91 cents for every dollar earned by men working full-time as nurses, according to the report. By comparsion, across all occupations, women earned 77 cents to the dollar men earned.

Men had the highest concentration among nurse anesthetists at 41 percent, according to the report. Men nurse anesthetists earned an average of $162,900 per year, more than double the average of men in all other nursing occupations ($60,700), the report found.

Kristina Whitmore, clinical nurse manager for the monitor care unit at Centegra Hospital – McHenry, said both men at women are attracted to nursing because of the many opportunities for advancement.

“Nursing is a career,” said Whitmore, who started as an associate nurse at Centegra and worked her way up the ranks.

Jimeno said he enjoys spending time with patients, advocating for their needs, and being the “eyes and ears” of physicians, who spend less time with patients.

Though patients sometimes ask if he is a doctor, Jimeno said he hasn’t run into many stereotypes as a man in a profession dominated by women. However, while in school working to get his RN license, Jimeno said he often felt invisible when recruiters came to campus.

“They didn’t really see [the men],” he said. “They didn’t recruit us as much.”

Of Centegra’s nearly 900 nurses, 51 are men, said Kim Kubiak, spokeswomen for Centegra Health System. Similar statistics weren’t immediately available from Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington or Sherman Hospital in Elgin.

Chris Runge works as a patient care technician at Centegra Hospital – McHenry. The 39-year-old Lakewood man worked in landscape design for 16 years, but is now pursuing a career in nursing. He hopes to become a registered nurse in three years.

Runge was inspired by the special care nurses gave to his daughter, Nevin, who has epilepsy, when she was in the hospital.

“When I was let go from my job in 2011, my wife and I decided it was time to find another career,” he said. “We knew nursing was definitely the way to go. Being in the hospital is not fun, but hopefully I can make it a little bit easier for those who are coming in.”

Fellow Centegra patient care technician Chad Linane also chose nursing after spending long hours in the hospital. Linane spent six months in the hospital after he was impaled by a pole in 2009. The injury damaged some of his organs and he spent a year getting around with a walker. The experience changed his life – and his professional goals.

“After that, you wake up – you see everything in a whole different light,” Linane said. “I wanted to be able to help people.”

He took the licensing test to become a certified nursing assistant while on a four-hour leave from the hospital.

The longtime mechanical engineer “took a lot of heat” from colleagues in the building trades for his decision, but Linane said he is confident he made the right choice.

“Having job security is huge right now,” said Linane, who is in the process of shutting down his construction business. “And, when I go home at night, I feel like I’ve done something to to help someone, like I’m able to give back.”

Study highlights:

• There were 3.5 million employed nurses in 2011, about 3.2 million of whom were female and 330,000 male.

• Of the employed nurses (both sexes), 78 percent were registered nurses, 19 percent were licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses, 3 percent were nurse practitioners, and 1 percent were nurse anesthetists.

• While most registered nurses (both sexes) left home for work between 5 a.m. and 11:59 a.m. (72 percent), a sizable minority (19 percent) worked the evening or night shifts.

• The majority of registered nurses (both sexes) worked in hospitals (64 percent). The majority of licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses worked in nursing care facilities or hospitals (about 30 percent each). The percentages for hospitals and nursing care facilities are not significantly different from each other.

• In 2011, 9 percent of all nurses were men while 91 percent were women. Men earned, on average, $60,700 per year, while women earned $51,100 per year.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau study “Men in Nursing Occupations”

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