In 2012 my partner and I made a major change in our lives: we moved 4000 kms from London, Ontario to Prince George, British Columbia. Sarah had just finished her Bachelor of Education at The University of Western Ontario (where I had finished a Bachelor of Arts degree one year earlier) and she was eager to start teaching. Knowing the difficulty of finding full-time employment as an elementary school teacher, we acknowledged the need to search for opportunities across the country. School District 57 was the first school board to interview Sarah for a full-time position. As luck would have it, she started her dream job in September 2012 as a grade one teacher at École Lac Des Bois in Prince George – and I tagged along with her.
Living in northern B.C. has been a motivating and transformative way to start life on our own, even though life is especially challenging in your 20s (as most 20-somethings will agree). Having left our family and friends in Ontario, we’ve had to fend for ourselves. Sarah has had to adjust to professional life and I have had to cope with the loss of my father and both my grandmothers. Still – the end result of moving to Prince George is that we have developed new strengths, new interests, new friends, and new goals.
Like many 20-somethings, Sarah and I have always wanted to build a rewarding and meaningful life. But a year ago, this desire forced me to face a problem: I needed to reinvent myself in Prince George in order to build the life I wanted. I had to balance the reality of needing an income with my desires to live a good life and to make the world a better place.
So I recently decided to work toward building the life I wanted by being more vulnerable and by using my strengths. I’ve always known that, for work, I wanted a vocation – not just employment. I want to go to work knowing that I’m uniquely fit for what I do, that my skills are truly needed, and that what I do matters. It’s important to me that my actions have an immediate and obvious consequence, that they help other people, and that they relieve suffering rather than contribute to it. If I had a choice, I’d prefer not to wear a suit – definitely not a tie – and I’d prefer to be on my feet rather than behind a desk. And frankly, if I can’t have the above, then I’d rather not work at all!
Fortunately, there are people that – every day – do the kind of work I desire. They’re called nurses. When I finally recognized it – when I truly appreciated the kind of work nurses do – I wanted to do it, too. And that’s how I decided, about a year ago, that I wanted to be a nurse.
Now – for those that know me – the reason I want to be a nurse is obvious. Yet most people ask me “why do you want to be a nurse? Why nursing?” I am tempted to answer their question with another question: why not nursing? Instead, I usually answer their sense of surprise with the truth.
I say that I want to be active and feel needed; I want to be on my feet; I want to help others, I want to solve problems and think critically, I want to be vulnerable and brave, I want to teach others, I want to promote health and well-being, I want to advocate for basic rights, and I want to be a lifelong learner.
If I can earn an income doing all of the above, then that’s great. That’s my reasoning – and I won’t apologize if it’s not profound enough for a culture still unaccustomed to male nurses.
Of course, like other males in nursing, the reason I’m asked so often about choosing nursing is simply because I’m a male. Unfortunately, men are still unusual in nursing. Most males do not seem to want to become nurses (they’re just not going to school for it). However, I have a hunch that most males never even realize that nursing is an option for them.
Speaking for my gender, the idea of nursing as a viable, rewarding, and respectable career for a man just does not occur to us (at least not early enough). Most of us are still inclined to think of nursing as a woman’s job, something a “real” man has no business doing, and that’s probably just another sad result of a culture that overinflates gender differences. Regardless, speaking for males generally, nursing is rarely (if at all) recommended to us by others. The few of us that do choose nursing are finding it on our own, and I think that’s a problem.
I am writing with the hope that we can change this, and change it quickly. For the same reasons that we need more female scientists, engineers, and architects, we need more male nurses.
So the next time you have the chance to offer some career advice to a male – especially an adolescent male – I am hoping you’ll ask them: why not nursing?
What are your thoughts about men in nursing? Share your comments with us below.
About Andrew Gregory
Born and raised in London, Ontario, Andrew has lived in Prince George for two years, where he enjoys cross-country skiing, alpine skiing, hiking, and exploring the surrounding area. He is a vegetarian who loves cooking, reading, and learning. Andrew is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario, and he is currently enrolled in the Northern Collaborative Baccalaureate Nursing Program offered by UNBC and CNC.