When the nurse is skilled, competent…and male

Roderick Munoz; Arman David

Roderick Munoz; Arman David

By Cristina DC Pastor

Please don’t call them “murses.” They are dedicated health care professionals and they are part of this rapidly growing community called ‘men in nursing.’

Male nurses like Arman David of Christ Hospital in Jersey City, and Roderick Munoz of Chilton Medical Center in Pompton Plains, New Jersey, have heard it all, but have learned to take things in stride.

“We’ve been asked: Are you gay, or are you a frustrated doctor,” laughed Arman, 41, a registered nurse of almost 20 years, and who is currently working as a recovery room nurse. “That used to annoy me.”

Not anymore. Arman is quite comfortable in his own skin, and happy to be among the 400-plus nurses at Christ Hospital where about 80 percent are Filipinos and about 25 percent are male nurses. His duty as a recovery room nurse is to administer anesthesia and other medication to patients and to track their progress after surgery.

Men had a distinguished history as nurses in the early civilizations in Asia and Europe. In America, men and women served as nurses during the Civil War in the mid-1800s until nursing became a women’s job because the men were needed on the battlefield. Thus began the “feminization of nursing,” according to Allnurses.com.

The rules began to change dramatically when the American Assembly of Men in Nursing organized in the early 1970s, calling for diversity and encouraging the recruitment of men to the profession.

“The percentage of male registered nurses jumped from 2.7 percent in 1970 to 9.6 percent in 2011,” according to a report in USA Today using data from the American Community Survey.

Slowly, the profession began to open up. Filipino men began making a beeline to nursing schools to improve their chances of finding work overseas.

Anecdotally, Arman noticed a peak in the 1990s. As a freshman, there was only a handful of male nursing students in his college. By the time he graduated after four years, there was nearly a hundred.

Arman David with wife Joyce

Arman David with wife Joyce

The stereotype about ‘gay nurses’ used to bug Arman. But the unsavory teasing is not as common in the U.S. as it is in the Philippines.

“Here, nursing is becoming a second career for some ex-police officers and firefighters,” he said. “In the Philippines, they think male nurses are gay.” He wondered why men should be made to feel shame working in a traditional, women-led profession.

Admittedly, nursing was the path taken by Arman’s family to the U.S. An older sister, who was a nurse, petitioned for their parents and later the entire family.

His first job was at Elizabeth General Hospital in Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he worked as a telemetry nurse. After three years, he moved to Christ Hospital.

As a male nurse, he is usually asked to help with lifting big-bodied patients. Not a problem with Arman who is 5’6” and 140 pounds.

One of the upsides, according to him, is that some male doctors treat male nurses as buddies or “equal.”

“Doctors have higher respect for male nurses, like you’re an equal,” he said. “If the nurse is a woman they (male doctors) feel superior.”

Arman lives in Rahway, New Jersey with his wife, Joyce, and their five children with ages ranging from 2 years old to 18.

Rod Munoz, 41, a dialysis nurse at Chilton Hospital, chafes at some people’s image of nurses as “katulong lang” or mere servants.

As a ‘certified nephrology nurse’ — to be more precise –Rod’s duties involve offering skilled treatment to patients with kidney disease using dialysis equipment and assisting in transplant procedures. He services patients considered to be in “acute conditions.”

Photography is Roderick Munoz’s other passion.

Photography is Roderick Munoz’s other passion.

Rod did not set out to become a nurse; he wanted to be an architect or, maybe, an engineer so he could continue the family’s machine shop business. But, together with a group of friends in high school, he took up nursing in college with an eye to, one day, coming to work in the U.S.

Nursing started to grow on him when he began to see patients get well under his care.

“When I see the people I’ve helped and how their medical situation has changed, I came to like it,” said Rod whose nursing experience spans 20 years. “Later I realized I can apply this knowledge to my own family.”

Rod and his wife, a chef, have two children; the family lives in Parsippany, New Jersey.

He is all too familiar with the ‘gay’ teasing, which does not bother him at all. But he shakes his head hearing cretinous comments that nurses are second-class to doctors.

“It annoys me that some people think nursing is a demeaning job,” he said wryly.

Being male carries certain gender barriers, such as when female patients prefer a female nurse over a male counterpart.

“I have no problem with that,” he said, “I understand that some female patients want their privacy.”

Heavy lifting is something to expect when you’re a male nurse. When a patient needed to be moved, Rod would hear hospital staff joke about “needing some muscle,” and he knew instantly they meant him.

Before coming to Chilton, Rod worked at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center as an ICU nurse.

“Now I’m doing dialysis nurse. Two different worlds, but both require advanced nursing skills,” he said.

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