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All three men are different, yet all three have something in common: They entered a profession dominated by females.
Aron Opperman, Kamau Mosley, and John Delph are registered nurses at University Hospital. What sets them apart in a crowd isn’t so much their sex but the fact that all three men are part of a US Census Bureau statistic of 9%. That’s how many men were counted in the nursing population as compared to 91% women.
Some reports indicate the number of male nurses is growing closer to the number of female nurses in some states but overall the numbers are still lagging. And those who are nurses represent every area of specialty from obstetrics to geriatrics.
“I didn’t feel like I was making a difference. I wanted to do something where I was helping people and I wanted flexibility, to get out from behind a desk,” said Opperman, 37, who went back to school to obtain his nursing degree after working in logistics management for five years. He was one of about five males in his Rhodes State graduating class of 75 nurses in Lima, Ohio.
“I grew up on a farm, so I’ve seen a lot of stuff from cows being born to stuff other people might not be able to handle with a weak stomach. I’ve also changed a lot of diapers and messes,” said Opperman, the father of three children ages, seven, five and two. He met his wife in nursing school.
Opperman’s decision to choose nursing was practical, he said. It’s a profession that offers stability, great benefits and flexibility.
“I worked in ICU and ER for several years and now I work in progressive care. There are options and I can relate back to a lot of situations and build on my experience,” said Opperman. He adds the toughest part of his job is working with multiple family dynamics during a time of loss.
“When a family has lost a loved one tragically, there can be lots of issues you may not expect – like organ procurement, last wishes, and accepting the cause of death – it’s tough watching a family go through that.”
Does he see himself differently because he’s a male nurse?
“It would be foolish to say there’s not a camaraderie among male nurses. Things are changing but there’s still a stigma. For some people it’s like a guy saying he wants to be a housewife,” said Opperman.
“For me it’s all about the care. When I approach a patient I just try to make sure they know I’m here to help in any way I can to my ability.”
Kamau Mosley, 29, who works in pre-admission testing, followed in his mother’s footsteps when he obtained his nursing degree two years ago.
“I used to go sit in her unit in ICU after school and wait for her to get off work,” said Mosley, who also met his wife in nursing school. Brianna Mosley assists with endoscopic procedures at University Hospital. The Mosleys have a 2-year-old son.
“I just saw mom working as a nurse and how important that was to care for others,” said Mosley, one of seven males nurses in his Oklahoma Baptist University graduating class of 50.
“He’s compassionate and empathetic. That’s what makes him great and he’s really good at staying calm in bad situations,” said Brianna Mosley. He’s also strong. The former high school receiver who stands at 6’2” and weighs 245 pounds says he tries to stay in shape for his work by lifting weights regularly.
What does he like best about being a nurse?
“I work in my department where there are often a lot of distraught people. They are hearing a diagnosis for the first time so I’m answering questions and offering reassurance that they are in good hands. That’s important.”
His biggest challenge?
“It’s understandable when people are grumpy and upset. That’s tough, but I just want to make them smile and understand that we’re here for them.”
John Delph, 37, has been at University Hospital for eight years.
He was working as a medical technologist in the blood bank when he decided he wanted more patient interaction. He went back to school to pursue his nursing degree and has been working in apheresis and cellular therapy at University Hospital.
He learned early on about the occupation from his mom, a school nurse.
“I wanted to be more hands on with the patient,” said Delph, who is married and has a 21-month-old son.
“The biggest thing I see is the need is growing in the area of patient care. It doesn’t make a difference whether you are a male or a female, the need is there in healthcare,” said Delph. “In fact, one of the most challenging things is time management – to fit all the patients into the business hours and then review at the end of the day and wonder how we got it all completed.
“Fortunately for us, a lot of attitudes have changed about male nurses. People are more open to all types of care and want the best care they can get. We’re all in this for the same reason.”
-- By T.J. Banes, Associate Senior Journalist at IU Health.
Reach Banes via email at T.J. Banes or on Twitter @tjbanes.