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Nontraditional roles suit many men and women

After his fourth job application was rejected, Jeremy Hill was ready to make a leap of faith.

“I couldn’t even get in the door for an interview,” Hill said. “On paper, I was just another unemployed guy in a sea of other guys with exactly the same resume.”

The civil engineer turned his back on his chosen profession after a surprise layoff in 2009 and took his first steps into a new field, nursing.

“I realized that I couldn’t compete with all the experienced (engineers) out there who were also looking for a job,” said Hill, who had five years experience in his field. “I was young enough, and no real responsibilities like a family, to try something completely different.”

But it wasn’t easy.

“My (colleagues) didn’t think it was a good idea, but not because of money, because I’d get razzed as a guy nurse like in ‘Meet the Parents,’ ” he said, of the 2000 movie starring Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller. “If I was at some (casual) get together, I said I was going to medical school, not nursing school because I’d get a lot of questions as to why I wanted to be a nurse.”

Hill chose nursing because he wanted a career that would be rewarding and financially stable. It also put him in a beneficial niche.

“There weren’t a lot of guys in my classes,” said Hill, now a licensed practitioner nurse at an area hospital. “I thought I could use that to my advantage.”

Nontraditional jobs can open doors for job seekers stuck in a rut or finding they are limited in their chosen career path. The Labor Department defines nontraditional occupations as those in which individuals from one gender make up 25 percent or less of the individuals employed in each profession.

Although women have made great strides to fill and succeed in male-dominated fields, such as law enforcement, technology, firefighting and the military, many men also have been successful in stereotypical female fields.

“Nursing is a field that people, like my dad, thought was mainly for women and I was working to be a doctor or something, something more,” Hill said. “But I love my job. It’s the best decision I ever made. Every day I’m glad I chose to be a nurse.”

Many professions, such as nursing and teaching, are specifically seeking to recruit men.

The unique perspective a man brings to an industry usually dominated by women can be quite beneficial for the company, clients and staff, said Natalie Ransom, chief nursing officer for MountainView Hospital.

“There is an old stigma that is still sort of around, that nursing isn’t (for men),” she said. “You see it even in nursing schools; they are trying to do a good job, but you see literature for a nursing school and you see a female on the brochure. Men in the past may have felt that they were (odd-man out), but that stigma is changing.”

Nursing tends to conjure images of Florence Nightingale or Margaret Sanger, but the bottom line is nursing is a career path that can be rewarding to any gender.

“It doesn’t matter if you are male or female, nursing has a lot of benefits, both financially and emotionally,” Ransom said. “What’s most important to me is that, as a nurse, you have an opportunity to affect people’s lives and their families’ lives, which is the main reason to want to become a nurse. You play a huge role in people’s lives.”

More men are trading in their work shirts for scrubs than ever before. In 1972, the Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that only 1.4 percent of the overall registered nurse population was comprised of men, but by the end of the past decade, that had more than tripled at nearly 7 percent, and continues to rise. At MountainView Hospital, of the total registered nurses, 537 are female and 77 are male, about 12.5 percent of the registered nurse staff, higher than the national average.

Men bring a unique perspective to a female-dominated workplace, Ransom said.

“It does bring a different dynamic to the table,” she said. “I think the more diversity you have in a team the stronger your team. We have different cultures, diverse genders, which makes for a much stronger staff at MountainView.”

Nursing in general is a solid career path considering the current uncertain economic landscape, she said.

“Generally, nurses have a very competitive salary, very competitive benefits with good vision, dental, a 401(k), and generally you have a very good benefits package overall wherever you go,” Ransom said. “You have a lot of independence as well.”

That is reflected in the flexibility offered in the scheduling.

“With other jobs, you may not always be able to make your own schedule, but with all the varying shifts it can make it easier if you have a family or other obligations,” she said. “For instance, you can find eight- or 10- or 12-hour shifts, night shifts, weekend shifts, part-time. When we are taking care of our families it can make a difference to getting ahead and barely making it and this profession really does allow for that.”

With the transformation that is occurring in health care right now, nurses will play a much larger role, she said.

“With the transformation that is occurring, more and more work is placed on surgeons, general practitioners, and it’s hard for them to sustain their level of what they need to get done, so they are relying on nurses more,” Ransom said.

The nursing field also allows for growth.

“If you get tired of the job (in a hospital) you can go the education route,” she said. “You can become a clinical educator within the hospital or go to UNLV and teach. It is just one of those professions where, if you get bored with what you are doing, there are a lot of other things you can do and to me that shows the diversity of this profession.”

There also is a lot of job security.

“Right now, especially with what is going on with the economy, it can be scary out there but (we have) job security, we have great jobs right now,” she said.

Her advice to men looking to enter nursing?

“Refine your skills and be confident in what you do and it’s amazing what career paths you can do,” Ransom said.

MountainView is looking to fill positions in the emergency department, ICU and med surge unit. Go to www.mountain view-hospital.com for more information.

The Eastridge Group of Staffing Cos. regularly assists clients looking to enter a nontraditional field.

“It opens up the marketplace,” said Jason Bruckman, regional vice president for Eastridge. “By thinking of a position of as a male or female role, it really limits what you can do, where you can go in your (career).”

In this marketplace employers are looking for great talent, he said, and job seekers may make the mistake of overlooking a job opportunity they would excel at because of their bias about traditional societal gender roles.

“It has been ingrained in our minds that some jobs are for women and some jobs are for men,” Bruckman said. “But really employers are just looking for great people, and you don’t want to limit yourself to 70 to 80 percent of the jobs out there because you are missing out on the other 20-30 percent that could really benefit you, and the employer.”

They regularly recruit for nontraditional roles.

“We have seen an increase in the industrial side where it has been traditional for men to apply and work in the warehouse or on a (construction) site,” he said. “Now we are seeing more women in a warehouse environment for staffing and distribution, in roles that go into manufacturing.

Technology and light industrial businesses have also seen a rise in female employees.

“We’ve sent women for tech positions, a combination of IT and manufacturing,” he said. “And the pick-and-pack, a distribution environment picking orders for the manufacturing field where it has been, traditionally speaking, a male-dominated environment. That has seen a lot of growth as of late for women.”

When walking into a job to apply for a nontraditional role and feeling a little nervous, Bruckman said to walk in with confidence, as you should with any job interview.

“Go in like that position is for you,” he said. “Be engaging, be professional. When you go into that interview, know that that position was posted for you.”

Two administrative areas that are needful of employees are accounting and human resources, Bruckman said.

“What we can see, specific to the Las Vegas economy, is that employers want to have their foundation set before building up,” he said.

And call centers are starting to make a comeback in the valley, which can lead to jobs in many different areas.

“Starting off in a call center can be very rewarding,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to get into the sales side and it can lead to a $50,000 to $60,000 a year position if they are great in the call center. It’s a sort of testing ground for the company.”

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