Brian Jablonksi feels like Barney when he walks through the hospital in his purple scrubs. But in NYU’s nursing program, seeing a dinosaur in a hospital corridor wouldn’t be much more rare than seeing a male nursing student.
“There are about five males in my class and about 115 females,” said Jablonski, a senior nursing major in the College of Dentistry.
Jablonski, who said all NYU nursing students wear purple scrubs to distinguish them as students, frequently gets awkward reactions when he tells other people he is a nursing student.
“Usually walking around campus in my scrubs, people ask whether I’m a pre-med student, and I tell them I’m a nursing student and they say, ‘I didn’t know there were guys in nursing,’ ” he said. “Sometimes when I walk into a room, a patient will say, ‘OK, I have this, and this, and this,’ and I have to say, ‘Sorry ma’am, I’m not a doctor.’ I don’t think there is so much of a stereotype for men in nursing, but for nursing in general.”
With a cultural preconception that nursing is for females, male nurses are often a small minority. Out of 1,174 students in NYU’s nursing program, only 78 are male, making it roughly a 15-to-1 male-to-female ratio.
When Jablonski told some family members that he was going into nursing, they asked why he wasn’t just going to be a doctor.
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“They almost felt nursing was like a step down from being a doctor,” he said. “I knew I wanted to do something in the medical field, but during high school, I realized that doctors didn’t get to do much direct patient care, and I felt nurses made more of a difference.I wanted [to do] more than just give them a medicine to make them better. When people come to the hospital, they aren’t just sick physically but they need to get over the illness mentally too, and that’s what nurses do.”
Kevin Tse, who is also a senior in the program, had similar reasons for going into nursing.
“When you first walk into an emergency room, the first person you see is a triage nurse — everything starts from there,” Tse said. “You appreciate patient care more being a nurse. As a doctor, you don’t have time to really interact so much with the patient, but as a nurse, you’re there one-on-one and know them on a personal level.”
Read more: Being a Male Nurse Can Bring Awkward Moments