According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2021, less than 14 percent of all registered nurses were men. While the percentage of men in nursing has grown over the decades, women still dominate the field.
However, five of the seven graduates are men in the latest cohort of students graduating from Ozarks Technical Community College with their Associate of Science in Nursing (the degree required to become a registered nurse). And, for the first time in the history of the college, the top three students in a graduating class of nurses are male.
“Men often bring a different perspective and attitude to the profession,” said Dr. Tena Wheeler, OTC associate of science in nursing department chair. “Everyone, especially patients, benefits from a diverse nursing workforce.”
In another first, this graduating class of nurses marks the first time a student has graduated with his Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) who came through the paramedic to ASN bridge program. The relatively new program allows paramedics to bypass the practical nursing education and pursue the more advanced nursing degree.
“I’m definitely proud of myself and what I’ve accomplished,” said Jared Smith, OTC paramedic to ASN graduate.
Jared Smith attended OTC to earn his paramedic degree. He returned to work on a biology degree, which he planned to use as he pursued a bachelor’s degree and, eventually, medical school admission. Like many people, the pandemic derailed his plans, and he used his medical background working at a clinic with his girlfriend, a physician. When the pandemic began to subside, Jared returned to school but decided to pursue a nursing degree instead of finishing his biology degree. While his background as a paramedic helped him with some aspects of nursing, he wasn’t prepared for everything.
“Whenever we were training on cardiac arrest or drug overdoses, I knew exactly what to do. But, when we were learning about the foundations of nursing, I had to learn to give a bed bath. I’d never done that in my life,” Jared said with a laugh.
Jared impressed his classmates so much; he was chosen to be their graduation speaker. He also earned the Nursing Excellence Award and the Nursing Image Award. His fellow top classmates joined him in earning awards. Christoffer Jones won the Academic Excellence and Clinical Excellence Awards. Adam Burkhart earned the Nursing Transition Award, which goes to the student who does the best job transitioning from practical nursing to registered nursing.
Due to the weather, the nursing graduates’ pinning ceremony was conducted virtually on Friday, March 11. The pinning ceremony symbolizes a nursing graduate’s initiation into the profession.