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Men at work: Profiles of men in nursing

The nursing workforce traditionally has been dominated by women. But the impact of men on the profession, both historically and today, is tangible and significant. From poet Walt Whitman’s caring for soldiers during the Civil War to men in nursing who currently are providing patient care and are in administrative positions, the goal is the same: to labor on behalf of all patients, no matter their age, sex, race or socioeconomic status. Many men also work to advance men’s roles through mentorship and helping to banish stereotypes, while others advance nursing through research. The following men serve as examples of the male perspective and dedication to the profession.

‘Tenderhearted’ poet works as nurse – Walt Whitman Poet, Volunteer nurse, 1819-1892

Walt Whitman

By Cathryn Domrose

Though he never was appointed as a nurse, the poet Walt Whitman spent months during the Civil War doing the same type of hospital work as many educated Union women who volunteered as nurses. While visiting his brother, who was wounded in battle in 1862, Whitman was moved by the plight of the young men who lay wounded or ill in Washington, D.C., hospitals. He began visiting them, bringing food, clothing, money and treats. He also dressed the soldiers’ wounds, wrote letters home for them and read aloud to them from literary classics and the Bible. When his brother returned to battle, Whitman stayed in Washington, eventually spending six or seven hours a day with the men he called “my boys.”

“One of the most beloved and tenderhearted of the visitors at the hospitals in Washington is Walt Whitman,” wrote James Redpath, a friend of Whitman who worked as a war correspondent for the New York Tribune. “A gentleman who accompanied him on several of his visits relates that his coming was greeted by the soldiers with unvarying pleasure. … His friends say that he cured one or two young soldiers who were dying of homesickness by his sympathy and loving kindness.”

Whitman wrote extensively about his nursing work. The poet seemed to have valued the soldiers’ company as much as they valued his. But he also saw them collectively as noble, courageous men who represented what was good about America and who deserved care for their bodies and their spiritual and emotional needs.

“I go among all our own dear soldiers, hospital camps and army, our teamsters’ hospitals, among sick and dying, the rebels, the contrabands [black patients], etc.,” he wrote in a solicitation letter to a friend in 1863, seven months into his hospital work. “What I reach is necessarily but a drop in the bucket but it is done in good faith, and with now some experience and I hope with good heart.” •

Cathryn Domrose is a member of the editorial staff.

Unflinching advocate supports gender diversity – Luther Christman, RN, PhD, FAAN, 1915-2011First male dean of a school of nursing, nurse advocate

Luther Christman, RN

By Nick Hut

Arguably no man has affected nursing to the extent of Luther Christman, RN, PhD, FAAN. Upon Christman’s passing June 7, 2011, at age 96, tributes poured in from people throughout the nursing landscape. He worked in the field in some capacity for 65 years and spent much of that time striving to affect the practice in profound ways.
Many of Christman’s efforts focused on men in nursing. People who knew him said his motivation in those endeavors arose from discrimination. The Army Nurse Corps denied him entry during World War II, as did two university programs, on the basis of his gender. Upon seeking to work in a maternity ward to further his clinical experience, Christman was called a “pervert,” according to his 2005 biography, “Luther Christman: A Maverick Nurse — A Nursing Legend.”

He consistently pushed for progress in the recruitment of male nurses, in recent years pointing out that such efforts would help ease the nursing shortage. As the first male dean of a school of nursing, at Vanderbilt University starting in 1967, his innovations included the practitioner-teacher role and science-based academic models spanning the baccalaureate through doctorate levels. Christman’s next stop was Rush University College of Nursing in Chicago, where he became vice president for nursing affairs in 1972 and implemented what became widely known as the Rush Model for Nursing. He developed the clinical nurse specialist position and emphasized a system of patient-centered nursing care driven by nurses.

In 1974, he helped establish what is now the American Assembly for Men in Nursing to support men in the profession. Even after he no longer held a formal position in nursing, Christman remained a staunch advocate for issues such as the movement to require BSN degrees. He emphasized the need for nurses to earn recognition as clinical experts and to pursue doctoral degrees.

“There never has been and never will be somebody like Luther,” said Peter Buerhaus, RN, PhD, FAAN, the Valere Potter Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt University and Christman’s friend. “He just had a very optimistic view of the future.” •

Nick Hut is news editor. Photo courtesy of Rush University Medical Center Archives.

Advocating for the underserved – Jose Alejandro, RN-BC, MBA, CCM, FACHE, 2012-2014 President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses Treasurer, Case Management Society of America

Jose Alejandro, RN

By Sallie Jimenez

Throughout his 17-year nursing career, Jose Alejandro, RN-BC, MBA, CCM, FACHE, has always charged “full steam ahead” when it comes to his professional pursuits, to the benefit of his patients and colleagues. Currently the corporate director of case management at Cornerstone Healthcare Goup, one of Alejandro’s primary goals as a nursing administrator or manager has been to serve indigent and low-income patients. “It’s important to make sure everyone, no matter their situation, receives the care they need,” he said.

Alejandro, incoming president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, a sixth-generation Texan of Mexican descent, or Tejano, has made nursing research one of his tools in securing quality healthcare for these populations. In June 2011, he co-presented “The Indigent Population: The Unique Roles of RN and SW Case Managers” at the 21st annual Case Management Society of America Conference and Expo in San Antonio.

Alejandro began delving into research at Parkland Health and Hospital System in Dallas during his time as director of care management from 2007-09. “We started

looking at trends in care with this population and built a research program around it.”
Alejandro said research is an effective instrument in demonstrating patient needs and justifying dedicating resources to meet them. “There is no access, no education, unless you develop research that shows the need,” he said.

His life before his lengthy nursing career helps to make his research goals more attainable. “I once was a public affairs specialist for the U.S. Air Force,” said Alejandro, who currently holds the rank of major in the U.S. Army Reserves Nurse Corp. “My writing background has assisted me in my nursing research and educational pursuits.”

As for being a man in a “woman’s world,” Alejandro said his professional growth within nursing was never hindered by his gender. He was mentored while studying for his BSN at the University of Texas at Arlington by female faculty members, who provided guidance and support. But being a member of a female-dominated profession can present challenges for some male nurses. “For instance,” he said, “it is perceived by some that men tend to move up in nursing faster based on their gender and not on ability.”

What has helped him succeed, he said, is being able to work collaboratively. “By establishing yourself as a knowledgeable person and adhering to patient-centered care, people buy into your ability and what you bring to the table, instead of nationality and gender.”

Through the years, in his roles within healthcare systems, as a faculty member at El Centro College and UTA, and as a regional education consultant at Aetna US Healthcare, he has shared his knowledge and mentored male student nurses and RNs who wanted to further their nursing careers.

As for his heritage, he said, it has helped to enhance his nursing career and make his goals more clear. “Being Hispanic American has taught me to respect people of all walks of life no matter what type of care is needed,” he said.

Alejandro said he decided to pursue the presidency of NAHN for three reasons: to continue bridging the separation of the subcultures within the organization, to help grow the association and to help it adapt to running more like a business using a strategic business plan. “Promoting unity will continue to be a priority,” he said. “Also, our members want educational resources and libraries. They want the opportunity to be heard.”

Being a male, Hispanic nurse has been a tremendous asset, he said, in terms of patient care. “Patients often are more comfortable being cared for by people of a similar culture. I think my heritage has helped me improve their quality of life.” •

Sallie Jimenez is a regional editor for

Hard at work for growing families – Don Houchins, RN, MSN, NE-BC, Director of Maternal-Child Services, Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center, Chicago

Don Houchins, RN

By Chad Johnson

Don Houchins, RN, MSN, NE-BC, director of maternal-child services at Saints Mary and Elizabeth Medical Center in Chicago, doesn’t dwell on the obstacles he has had to overcome during his career in nursing. His journey began when he enrolled in nursing school in 1973 — one of six male students in his nursing class of 60.
“I’ve always tried not to focus on being different,” Houchins said, “and I’ve done that by working hard and choosing not to have any excuses because that can lead down many other roads, and none of them are positive.”

Men choosing nursing as a career was not as common in the 1970s as it is today. Add to that his choice to work in the maternity ward and his career trajectory was one some might consider “the path less travelled” toward success. But Houchins chose a specialty he had a passion for, which made it easier to excel and find a lifetime of fulfillment.

“I really had a wonderful experience in the neonatal intensive care unit during nursing school,” he said. “They hired me specifically because I was a man, which was obviously very unique in the maternity ward, especially at that time. But I didn’t take the job just because it was offered to me, I took it because I truly enjoy working with babies and families.”

After completing nursing school, Houchins went on to earn his master’s degree in maternal nursing so he could teach and serve as a mentor for future nurses.

Houchins has a strong work ethic and is a proponent of personal responsibility, hard work, doing the right thing and constantly learning, as he has continued to advance his nursing knowledge. He is happy to lend a helping hand to younger nurses who exhibit the same qualities.

In 2010, Houchins was recognized by his peers for his work in this area when he became a finalist for the Nursing Spectrum Nursing Excellence Award in the Mentorship category. His peers wanted to call attention to the work he has performed as a teacher, administrator and role model for more than 20 years.

At the medical center, Houchins helped develop a program for staff nurses to help them identify research opportunities and to walk them through the proposal process. Other programs he developed include the hospital’s clinical ladder program, which encourages nurses to become lifelong learners; a new graduate program that helps nurses transition to the workplace; and the first local chapter for national nursing staff development, which he launched and now leads.

Houchins’ son is following in his footsteps at the University of Iowa, where he is enrolled in nursing school. His daughter also is strongly considering pursuing nursing after graduating high school.

“Nursing is such a wide open field,” Houchins said. “It is important to find the area that you are interested in so it is a career you are willing to invest in, both in terms of time and passion. Otherwise, nursing will be just a paycheck, and you won’t get nearly as much reward in what you do.” •

Chad Johnson is a freelance writer.

RN humanitarian helps heal the children – Richard H. Schneider, RN, Senior staff nurse, Burn unit Westchester Medical Center, Valhalla, N.Y.

Richard H. Schneider, RN

By Janice Petrella Lynch, RN, MSN

Richard H. Schneider, RN, senior staff nurse, burn unit, Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y., won the 2011 New York Times Tribute to Nurses Award in the Service to Community category for his work volunteering with Healing the Children and Project Vietnam Foundation, organizations that provide plastic surgery reconstruction and care to children around the world.

More than 30 years into his nursing career, Schneider went on his first humanitarian mission and has continued to travel the world providing volunteer medical care for children. Working in the recovery room and preop clinic, and as a volunteer mission coordinator and mission recruiter, Schneider has joined six medical missions during the past six years.

When a colleague first asked him to join a mission to the Dominican Republic, Schneider decided to give it a try. Ninety plastic reconstruction surgeries and five days later, Schneider knew this way of giving to others was perfect for him. “I work hard during the day helping others in need,” Schneider said. “Then hopefully I can take a hot shower, eat the native beans, rice, chicken or fish and relax and listen and dance to music with old and new friends.”

During his first trip, he worked in a large ward that served as a recovery room, where they had one oxygen tank and used nails in the walls to hang IVs. “Of course, we brought our own equipment, like surgical sets, blood pressure cuffs, oximeters, dressings, IV tubing and much more,” Schneider said.

On most of his missions, Schneider experienced Spartan working and living conditions. Plumbing might work or might not; supplies have been stolen; and bathrooms often do not have many basic necessities, such as a toilet seat, light, door and tissue paper. “In North Vietnam, because of a hot political climate and at the command of the Communist Party chairman in Bac Khan, we literally had to pack and go after having been there for just three and a half days,” he said.

It wasn’t long after his first trip that Schneider traveled to North Vietnam through a grant from Healing the Children, and he has been there twice in the past six years. In the recovery room, he worked with children who had reconstructive surgery for cleft lips and palates, nasal reconstruction and burn scars. “Besides bringing our equipment and ‘practices in a box,’ we bring toys, educational materials and cash donations for those in need,” Schneider said.

Schneider has been to Santa Marta, Colombia, and after nine days and 70 craniofacial reconstructions, he reaffirmed his international commitment. “I was rocking a baby who was cooing and waking up from surgery with music in the background and the smell of rice and beans in the air,” he said. “I realized it doesn’t get any better than this.” Schneider plans to return to Colombia two more times this year.

Despite adversity, he relishes the idea of building international diplomacy through healthcare. He prides himself in delivering excellent nursing care and in building friendships along the way. “The parents are always joyful when they see their children in the PACU after surgery,” Schneider said. “Although the children are edematous and have craniofacial stitches, the postop results are instantly obvious and gratifying.”

Schneider travels with the Northeast, Florida and Southwest chapters of Healing the Children and serves on the board of the Florida chapter. He is joining mission trips to South America, El Salvador and Colombia this year.

For information, visit,, or •

Janice Petrella Lynch, RN, MSN, is a regional reporter, New York/New Jersey edition.

Patients with prostate cancer a priority for RN – Bryan Weber, ARNP, PhD Associate Professor, University of Florida

Bryan Weber, RN

By Chad Johnson

Bryan Weber, ARNP, PhD, associate professor of nursing at the University of Florida in Gainesville, chose to pursue a career in nursing because he was dedicated to helping people rather than focusing on a specific disease process.

When he began nursing school, he had to juggle studies, a career and a family.
“I took the long path in my career, but I got here,” Weber said. “The only barrier I had to overcome was myself and believing that I could accomplish things. Once I realized that, it was pretty smooth sailing.”

As such, it should come as no surprise that establishing confidence in patients is an area in which Weber has found great success.

Urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction are not topics most men are comfortable discussing with friends or family, yet both are common conditions present after treatment for prostate cancer, the second-most prevalent cancer type among men behind skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.

Because so many men are affected by prostate cancer, Weber set out to discover ways he could help them deal with the intense feelings a cancer diagnosis can invoke. His research on dyadic support intervention has proven cancer survivors are able to overcome symptoms of depression and anger if given an opportunity to discuss their symptoms and recovery with fellow prostate cancer survivors.

“Because the disease process is embarrassing to them, they don’t want to go to someone they know; they try to find someone other than a relative,” Weber said.

“Naturally, we as human beings try to find others to help us normalize our experiences. Many times men don’t know who to turn to, and if they turn to someone who has had a negative experience, the outcome of the conversation may not be good.”

In his research, Weber found a significant improvement in depression symptoms after four weekly one-hour intervention sessions in which patients were able to discuss any topic of concern, including how to deal with spouses, changes to their work and sexual activities and odor from urinary incontinence. “In society, men don’t seek healthcare on a regular basis like women do,” Weber said. “But the thing is, they need to talk, and that’s what we did in this study.”

Men seeking out peers for information and support is not a new concept, Weber said, and occurs in other settings. But, prior to his research, no one took the time to translate dyadic support into clinical processes. The results of Weber’s research has been published in several journals, including the Journal of Aging and Health and the Journal of Men’s Health and Gender. The National Cancer Institute also has included the Dyadic Support for Men with Prostate Cancer program on its website as a Research-tested Intervention Program.

Weber’s dyadic support research which focused on men’s emotional needs led him to his latest research, which is dedicated to their informational needs. He is currently conducting initial testing of the Prostate Cancer Survivor’s Toolkit, a collection of supplies and equipment not typically found at a local pharmacy. The supplies are designed to aid men in the daily management of urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction. •

Chad Johnson is a freelance writer.

Nightshift ED nurse is filmmaker by day – Leonel Oliva, RN, BSN, filmmaker, Los Angeles

Leonel Oliva, RN

By Lori Fagan

Leonel Oliva, RN, BSN, recently wrapped up filming “The Shift,” a movie he wrote and produced and in which he plays the lead role. The independent film derives from Oliva’s experiences with life-or-death decisions that face ED nurses, patients and families. In the film, Oliva plays a fictional nurse who strongly supports a patient’s right to choose death with dignity, but whose convictions are challenged by a new nurse he must train.

“This movie is my cathartic exploration of what nurses deal with while caring for people during end-of-life situations,” Oliva said. “It is my tribute to all of us who work so hard for our patients, while exploring the reasons why we care and fight so much for others. People will be caught by surprise by some things in this movie, things that only nurses know.”

Born and raised in Miami, Oliva moved to Los Angeles in 2007. He worked in an ED at night and pursued his filmmaking dream during the day. He got the first $50,000 for the movie from online fundraising and from his own pocket. He was to begin filming in October 2011 at a Miami hospital’s dormant ICU when the unit suddenly was needed for real patients. Losing thousands of dollars each day, he postponed filming and finally had to return to Los Angeles, where his luck turned.

Oliva gained access to the old Los Angeles County/University of Southern California hospital, which had been replaced by a new facility. He borrowed abandoned hospital equipment and filmed on one floor of the vacated building while workmen demolished other areas. Good fortune also arrived when well-known actor Danny Glover agreed to appear in the film. “When you try to make a movie about an ethical issue or a truth that makes people uncomfortable, you have to have a big name in it to draw people in,” Oliva said. “Danny knew within a few days of reading the script that he wanted to do it. He told me he’d experienced three different kinds of life-and-death decisions — with his father, his sister and his brother.”

Glover plays an ED charge nurse during the 12-hour shift that makes up the film’s time period. Oliva said Glover brought a calming feel to the set. “As much as you’d think it would make people nervous [to have a star like Glover around], it didn’t,” Oliva said. “He calmed people down. That’s just who he is.”

Oliva is trying to raise $30,000 to finish postproduction necessities such as sound editing. Passion, perseverance and self-assuredness complement Oliva’s upbeat perspective. He said overcoming the challenges of getting a feature film made as a newcomer to the industry gave him an even more positive attitude.

“When things are going wrong and falling apart, you have to trust that they are going right,” he said. “If you hang in there, you’ll get there. [The movie] is my thank you to all the nurses I’ve worked with and all the patients and family members who have allowed me to share in their lives and their deaths.”

“The Shift” is dedicated to its costume designer, Crystal Gomes, who Oliva said did the near-impossible job of making people look good in scrubs. Gomes died unexpectedly from an underlying heart condition in February at the age of 28.
Information and donation sites, respectively, for “The Shift” can be found at: and •

Lori Fagan is a member of the editorial staff.

Former math teacher turned nurse now aims for DNP – Gustavo Gonzales, RN, MSN, APN, NP-C, CCRN, Lead nurse practitioner, Student, Department of Nursing at William Paterson University Wayne, N.J.

Gustavo Gonzales, RN

By Renee F. Pevour, RN, MS

Gustavo “Gus” Gonzales, RN, MSN, APN, NP-C, CCRN, received the Cigna — Minority Graduate Teaching Assistantship to Doctor of Nursing Practice for 2012-2013 at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

The Cigna grant provides tuition, fees and a stipend for one year to assist a minority student entering the area of nursing education. It is designed to help a student from an underrepresented minority group complete a DNP with the goal of promoting his or her career in an advanced, leadership position in the nursing profession. As a recipient of the grant, Gonzales is teaching a culture course at WPUNJ while continuing his education in the DNP program.

Gonzales, the lead nurse practitioner at a hospital-affiliated, adult medical clinic in Dover, N.J., was inspired to become a nurse after a personal healthcare experience.

“Years ago, after emigrating from Argentina, I experienced chest pain and went to a local hospital,” Gonzales said. “The experience was difficult on many levels. However, as a result, I developed a desire to make a difference in the healthcare of those who have limited English ability and limited financial resources.”

Although Gonzales received a master’s degree in mathematics from the University of Buenos Aires, and taught math in Argentina, he was determined to become an RN after coming to New Jersey.

First, he received an associate’s degree in nursing from the County College of Morris (N.J.). Then, Gonzales continued to pursue a baccalaureate and master’s degree in nursing, which led to national certification as an adult nurse practitioner.

The clinic in which Gonzales works serves a primarily Hispanic population and has limited financial resources. Gonzales also maintains a private practice called the Health and Wellness Center. In an effort to serve the working population of mostly Hispanic neighbors, Gonzales extends office hours to 8 or 9 p.m. and, on occasion, will see a patient in his or her home.

The program aims to get Cigna-funded doctoral-level graduates to continue to serve underrepresented communities in New Jersey. An increase in the number of advanced practicing minority nursing professionals in the healthcare industry would help underserved populations by fostering care delivered with empathy, respect and understanding. The extended role as a nurse educator also will serve as an inspirational role model for underrepresented minority nursing students. •

Renee F. Pevour, RN, MS, is assistant to the chairman of the Department of Nursing at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

By | 2020-04-15T09:42:11-04:00 June 18th, 2012|Categories: National|0 Comments

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