By Emily Kent
Male nurses are statistically the minority in their field, but faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing and a new mentoring program are making sure male students have the tools necessary to succeed.
In 2018, Associate Professor Greg Eagerton, DNP, RN, and Assistant Professor Curry Bordelon, DNP, MBA, CRNP, CNE, NNP-BC, CPNP-AC, partnered to reactivate the Birmingham chapter of the American Association for Men in Nursing (AAMN). Eagerton and Bordelon took on leadership roles in the chapter and aim to build infrastructure and grow membership with the long-term goal of establishing a state chapter.
The UAB School of Nursing trends above the national averages for male students and faculty – its student population is nearly 16 percent male, compared to a national average of 11 percent. This, along with 18 percent male faculty, makes the School a strong anchor for the Birmingham chapter, Bordelon said. As a way to connect with and support male students, Eagerton and Bordelon established a new mentorship program, Nursing in Real Life (NiRL), encouraging conversations about diversity, challenges and success for men in nursing.
Nursing in Real Life is a monthly informal meeting for open discussions. Meetings include a topic-driven presentation by Eagerton and Bordelon, and then the floor opens for personal stories and questions, which can be on any topic. As nurses with years of clinical and educational experience, Eagerton and Bordelon answer students’ questions and provide insight into nursing.
“All questions are fair,” said Eagerton. “We want students to understand that during this time, we are not their teachers. We are nurse with years of experience and are ready to answer questions, give advice and listen to them as they prepare to enter the nursing field. Our goal is for NiRL to make sure our students and other men in nursing have individuals to turn to when they need guidance.”
Recent Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) graduate Garrett Barham said that male faculty at UAB and the discussions held in NiRL have inspired him to extend support to his male peers and colleagues.
“Drs. Eagerton and Bordelon are passionate about welcoming and supporting any and all nursing students,” Barham said. “Their drive gives me the desire to support upcoming nurses by providing my own insight as a recent graduate. Nursing school is demanding, but I want them to realize that they have a network of experienced nurses willing to guide them.”
Just as AAMN and its Birmingham chapter are not exclusive to men, NiRL welcomes all nursing students, especially those who face any diversity challenges. The program aims to allow students an opportunity to voice their own experiences and opinions to a group of students who celebrate diversity.
“Having a diverse population of students provides a more realistic representation of the questions and concerns nursing students have,” Bordelon said. “This allows NiRL to serve as a welcoming space for acceptance of the students’ diversity of ideas, points of view and experiences.”
Bordelon continued, “Bringing together nurses from a variety of backgrounds allows for collaboration of different perspectives of care. The diversity of ideas and experiences ultimately improves the care we can provide and gives insight into nursing in the real world.”