Former rancher takes advantage of ICCC - BVRMC partnership to gain onsite experience in nursing profession
As a rancher several years ago, one of Craig Smith's duties was to give shots to different animals who needed assistance from their owner.
Today, Smith is still administering shots to help patients, but is applying needles to humans as a student nurse at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center rather than to animals on a ranch.
Smith, 34, is one of three male students enrolled in Iowa Central Community College's nursing program, which collaborates with BVRMC to help pupils gain hands-on experience in the medical profession.
Smith, whose goal is to work with patients in a nursing home, said he was excited to be part of the program, and is looking forward to his new vocation.
"It's a good field to be in, and it's something that I enjoy doing," Smith, who will earn his LPN certification this summer, said. "I like working with the elderly, and I thought becoming a nurse would be a great way to do that."
A graduate of South Dakota State University, Smith originally planned to enter the education field, but then chose to become a rancher.
After earning accreditation as an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), Smith also began volunteering at the Methodist Manor, and he caught the nursing bug while helping residents of the Storm Lake retirement community.
"I really enjoyed the work there, because the residents had a lot of wisdom and were willing to share it with everybody," Smith said. "I was having fun working there, and I thought that I should give nursing a try, and here I am. I'm happy I decided to do this."
More males nationwide have decided to follow Smith's career path in recent years, and ICCC nursing program coordinator Jean Boerner said she has seen more men in class the past two years than in previous academic sessions.
"I do think that interest in nursing by men is up some," Boerner said. "We've already accepted four men for the upcoming fall, and it's usually been only one or two at the most, so there are more men inquiring about the program. It's been nice to see that interest go up."
Boerner said she hopes the recent rise in the number of male nurses is a sign that the typical medical stereotypes of male doctors and female nurses are starting to change.
"I think what we've seen is that men can be very valuable in the nursing profession," Boerner said. "I hope that we'll see even more men in nursing in the future, because the opportunities are definitely there for them."
The decisions of males to enter nursing programs such as Iowa Central's have also been heralded by hospitals across the country, as there has been a critical shortage of nurses in recent years.
"We always welcome male nurses, and we're trying to encourage more males to come into nursing, because of that shortage of male and female nurses across the country," BVRMC Clinical Services Director Dawn Bach said. "There's certainly a place for them here."
Smith's academic obligations for the program include a trio of three-hour classes every week at the ICCC campus, and he also visits BVRMC twice a week for his clinical work, helping provide a variety of medical services to patients on the second floor of the hospital.
In addition to his schoolwork, Smith also keeps busy on as a member of the Air Guard Reserves, driving up to Sioux Falls every weekend to fulfill those commitments.
Despite the rigorous schedule, Smith said his wife and two children have been supportive of him throughout the entire nursing school process.
"It's demanding and takes up a lot of time, but it's definitely doable," Smith said. "My family's really been very understanding, and that support has been great to have. It does take some extra time, but it's going to be worth it in the end."