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Angels of Mercy: Men Break Nursing Barriers
Date Posted: 01/Mar/2018
Stereotypes fall as guys move into profession
Breaking stereotypes of nurses as all females. Timothy Watson, Carl Scott-Jones and Richard Coffy of Novant Health contradict the gender and racial status quo. 
Scott-Jones, a 38 year-old registered nurse, once subscribed to the school of thought that nursing inherently fell to women.
“One day I talked to my mom and she suggested, “Why not go into nursing?’” said Scott-Jones, whose parents worked as a pediatric cardiology nurse and a surgeon. “At that point, I was like ‘Nah – it's for women.’ It was a sexist view, I guess.”
Scott-Jones works in Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center’s cardiac intensive care unit.
“I decided that I wanted to do something from an intensive care standpoint or an emergency standpoint,” he said. “I'm really an adrenaline junkie, so I like to be put into situations where I have to think on my feet and I like the challenge of it.”  
It’s not about doing what some would consider a woman’s job for nurses like Watson, a 57 year-old certified nursing assistant.
“I'm just doing what I'd like done for me if I was sick and in the hospital and wanted dignity and peace,” Watson said in a Novant Health Q&A. “I'm not sure if other males go through stuff like that. It’s a job and it’s a worthwhile and important job taking care of sick and aging people.”
Scott-Jones noted that societal perceptions suggest men are not the best communicators, which would inhibit their ability to succeed in a field like nursing.
“A lot of guys are seen as having communication barriers, and nursing is one of those areas where you have to communicate … I've learned that some of my female coworkers can be very direct and upfront like males are,” Scott-Jones said. “It takes a while to get comfortable communicating with a lot of women in different ways. I think that's another barrier that guys perceive.”
Another barrier comes from underrepresentation.
“Most of the TV shows we have the nurses are always the females and the doctors are male,” said Coffy, a 37-year-old registered nurse and clinical unit leader at the gastrointestinal unit.
Yet the traditional American perspective related to gender roles in nursing did not translate in Coffy’s native Kenya. He moved to the United States in 2001.
“Back home in Kenya, nursing had become so popular,” Coffy said. “It was becoming mainstream for both men and women because traditionally it was offered in tertiary colleges or some technical schools but then it was coming into universities. So it was becoming front and center and it was no longer viewed from a gender perspective.”   
America grapples with racial issues, not just gender issues, which impact healthcare professionals.
“Oh, I've definitely been called the N-word before by patients as a nurse,” Scott-Jones said. “The first time this happened, I wasn’t surprised because the patient was intoxicated, and I decided to stay away from that patient’s room. The second time it happened, I was slightly offended. In the end, after speaking with the charge nurse about what happened I was able to get my assignment to this patient changed.”
Said Watson: “I have had instances where people would treat you differently. I have been cursed, hit. Also, people have told me, “Oh well, being a black man, you gotta watch what you're saying. Because some people are trying to get you.”
Despite these obstacles, these men love what they do.
“I get great comfort out of helping people, especially when they are about to leave the earth,” Watson said. “Be there and talk to them and even hold their hand and sing to them sometimes. It’s a great feeling and it could get sad but it’s a great feeling when they say, ‘Thank you for all of the time you were there for me.’ That’s sad but it's also a great, beautiful thing for me.”  
Ashley Mahoney | Novanthealth

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