Breaking the Mold: Male nurse finds meaningful nursing career in corrections

rn to bsn online

Raul Duke earned his Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 2009 and is a registered nurse working at multiple facilities within the Kentucky Department of Corrections. As a male nurse, Duke is among the minority in a female dominated field. A survey published every four years by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) reports that less than 10 percent of the nursing population is male––triple the proportion since 1970. While the ratio of male nurses is small, there is great potential in health care for male nurses with a BSN, and an RN to BSN online program from Notre Dame College makes it easier than ever to earn a new nursing degree. We sat down with Duke to discuss his educational path as well as his job duties as a prison nurse.

Q: When did you get your BSN?

A: I earned my BSN in May 2009.

Q: Why did you decide to purse a four-year degree in lieu of an associate’s or license?

A: I opted to pursue a BSN in a traditional four-year program at the onset of my nursing education. I did not consider an associate’s degree at the time.

Q: Were there many male nursing students in your BSN program?

A: There were five male students out of the 50 enrolled in my class of 2009.

Q: What nursing courses have been the most beneficial in your career?

A: I would say anatomy, physiology, microbiology and pharmacology were the most beneficial courses. All have a common thread that makes them invaluable to my everyday work. Those subjects allow me to understand, down to a cellular level, how the human body functions. This provides for a very thorough understanding of the human body and how the various disease processes affect it. The pharmacology course focused on how the various classes of drugs work, their effect on the body and the body’s effect on the drugs.

I think a complete understanding of these things allows a nurse to know why the doctors give the orders or make the decisions that they do. Most importantly, it allows me to better educate the patient. I find many patients are either too uninformed or too nervous to ask questions of the doctor. That leaves me the subject of many interrogations. I like to be prepared.

Q: Do you have any tips for nursing students pursuing their BSN?

A: Nursing students need to learn time management to succeed in their BSN programs. While the material isn’t difficult, especially for current nurses, the sheer volume of it can be intimidating. Current nurses who have been out of school for a while should also manage test anxiety. I watched many nursing students fail out of the program because of a failure to do so.

Q: Do you have plans to pursue a MSN?

A: I am starting my Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in fall 2014. I want to be a nurse practitioner and then move into teaching.

Q: Where do you see the future of the nursing profession going?  How will advanced education play a role in the growth of health care and the nursing field?

A: The future of the entire medical field is in flux as our country overhauls our health care system. The evolution of nursing during this time of change will be interesting to watch. I do think that, moving forward, a BSN will become the standard for all nurses. I think we may see more responsibility and workload placed on nurse practitioners in primary care as MDs increasingly shift towards specialized medicine.

Q: Describe your day-to-day job responsibilities.

A: Each day usually starts with a sick call, a process by which patients are assessed for complaints ranging from ingrown toenails to sports injuries to possible heart attacks or strokes. I also administer medications of all types but primary insulin and other injections. I am the diabetic case manager so I spend a lot of time, in conjunction with the MD or nurse practitioner, ordering labs and doing patient education. I also spend significant hours performing therapeutic phlebotomy for patients with iron overload. Of course, in my work environment, we are the first medical responders so I’ve seen all sorts of interesting things.

Q: How has your BSN helped you in your career as a nurse?

A: My BSN gave me a broader knowledge base going into nursing, and it better prepared me to analyze and understand the myriad of health problems I encounter on a daily basis. Additionally, I am currently mulling over a big promotion, which requires a BSN as a qualification.

Q: Explain your nursing experience and why you prefer correction nursing.

A: My experience at two local hospitals (a Surgical ICU and a Cardiovascular Intervention Unit) was eye opening and allowed me to see that I was not really interested in being a bedside nurse. I like to tell my patients how it is, educate them and allow them to make informed decisions. I always thought that I wanted to work in a clinical setting with an underserved population. Those opportunities are rare in this area. Corrections allows me to work in a clinical setting with great hours and decent pay. I also see a wider variety of health problems and don’t have to specialize in just one area.

Q: How does working in a prison compare to working in a hospital setting?

A: They are much different. Hospital nursing, at least in my experience, is much more specialized. You learn a lot about your particular area from assessment to medications. The correctional setting is much broader spectrum and probably best described as part ER and part primary care clinic. We also have the opportunity to monitor patient’s health closely over a period of years. There is much more autonomy in the correctional setting. There are times I have been the only medical personnel at a 1,200-bed facility for 10–12 hours on a day shift. It can get pretty hectic, and you have to be confident in your assessment skills, especially with the mental games inmates want to play.

Q: Are there other male nurses at your facility?

A: There are four male nurses on our staff of 15.

Q: Are there any notable differences on the job between male nurses and female nurses?

A: I don’t feel there is much difference in male and female nurses as far as job pressures and performance. I think there are simply less men because for years it was traditionally a female role in the eyes of society. I do feel that male nurses tend to lean towards ER or OR work in the hospitals, though.

Q: What is the hardest part of your job?

A: The hardest part of the job is probably coordinating medical and security to best meet the needs of the patient while providing for the safety of inmates, staff and the community.

Q: What is the best part of your job?

A: The best parts of the job are the opportunities for learning and the constant action. There is never a dull moment in a prison. I also love the flexible schedule as I work Monday through Thursday.

Nurses are needed in a variety of unique health care settings. An RN to BSN can prepare you for a diverse nursing career, and the online component makes it easier for working professionals to earn their degree and discover a new career.