|Daniel Prieto dreams of going to medical school someday.
But right now, the 21-year-old Apopka man has set his sights on becoming a nurse.
"Medical school is so expensive and hard to get into," Prieto said, "so I thought, 'Maybe I'll get into nursing, in case things don't go the way I planned.' "
He is one of a growing number of men who are turning to the profession. And as the economy falters, Prieto and others are also finding that there's a bonus in the nursing field: The job is recession-proof.
"You don't make as much as a doctor makes, but it's a pretty good income," said Prieto. "That was definitely a factor."
At Seminole Community College, school administrators have seen a spike in the number of men applying to the nursing program, jumping from 32 to 58 during the past year. "I've been teaching for 18 years and have never seen anything like this," said Cheryl Cicotti, the college's director of nursing. "There's a tremendous amount of male interest."
For a state facing a critical shortage of nurses, that's good news. In its 2007 Nurse Employer Survey, the Florida Center for Nursing reported more than 5,000 vacant positions.
Change has been slowly coming to the nursing field. From 1980 to 2000, the percentage of males among U.S. registered nurses doubled -- from 2.7 percent to an estimated 5.4 percent. Today, 6 percent of the nation's nurses are men.
In Florida 9.4 percent of the state's registered nurses are men, according to a 2007 report from the Florida Center for Nursing.
But there is growing interest at community colleges. In 2001, only 8 percent of the students enrolled in the region's three largest nursing programs -- at Valencia, the University of Central Florida and Seminole Community College -- were men.
Today, 13.5 percent of Valencia's beginning nursing students are men. And at SCC, 18 percent of the applicants this fall were men. "I think one reason for the number of men is the economy," said Cicotti. "Nursing is one profession where you can find a job in any city that you go to. And it's a well-paid job."
The median income for registered nurses was $57,280 in 2006, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Yet there aren't enough nurses to keep up with vacancies created by turnover and retirements. So in April, Workforce Central Florida partnered with three Orlando-area hospitals -- Florida Hospital, Health Central and Orlando Health -- to sponsor an advertising and education campaign titled, "Are You Man Enough to Be a Nurse?"
The campaign features billboards, ads and posters of male nurses who also happen to be Harley riders, sky divers, skateboarders and deep-sea divers in their spare time. The campaign, which has been tried throughout the country, is aimed at students and men interested in changing careers.
Area schools, such as UCF and Valencia Community College, report that interest among men has increased, though they haven't yet seen spikes in enrollment that SCC has experienced, said Kimberly Cornett of Workforce Central Florida.
"Men are going into nursing because it's a stable job and it's economy-proof," said Jerry Lucas, 43, an Indiana emergency-room nurse and publisher of Male Nurse Magazine. "The field is still dominated by women, but we need to start looking at how we get more men in there."
Nursing student Steve Olah became interested in nursing while his father was in an intensive-care unit two years ago.
After he enrolled in SCC's nursing program, "I realized that I have an aptitude for it, but it's more than just a technical aptitude. I'm enjoying taking care of people," said Olah, 41, of Deltona.
After Olah earns his bachelor's degree in nursing in 2009, he hopes to work in a critical care unit, such as an ICU or a cardiac unit. Eventually, he would like to become a certified nurse-anesthetist.
"It's always nice to have a job that's recession-proof," Olah said, "but there are so many directions that this one degree can take you toward. The opportunity is unbelievable."source
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