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Male nurses find hospice work rewarding

They say the profession demands a lot but that it also gives much in return.

By Sandy Whitesides

More men are choosing careers in the nursing profession these days, though they still are in the minority.

The field has become increasingly attractive to both genders in recent years because it offers abundant job opportunities and, according to the Nursing Online Education Database, the average salary of a nurse is now above the national average.

With the current conditions of the economy, it’s easy to understand why anyone would be interested in pursuing this field of study. But after talking to two male nurses in the Gaston County area, it became clear that job opportunities and salaries were only part of the equation. The dominant factor driving their career choice centered on their desire to help others.

Juano Duff, 54, of Gastonia and Gregg Talton, 43, of Belmont are the only male nurses at the Robin Johnson Hospice House in Dallas. The Robin Johnson House is a beautiful 12-bed inpatient facility for terminally ill patients.

“For those working here, this is more than a job,” said Teresa Reynolds, interim director. “It’s their mission.”

Duff and Talton agree, saying their work is part of their calling. Both men left other careers to attend nursing school.

Duff retired from the Air Force in 1996. He had been working in the aero-medical field at Wright- Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio, providing medical care to Air Force families, and thought nursing would be the next logical step.

After graduating from nursing school, he worked as a traveling nurse, then moved with his wife and children to Gastonia because he had heard the area was a great place to raise a family.

Duff, originally from Philadelphia, said that at 16, his sister was the victim of a shooting that left her paralyzed and traumatized him. Throughout the years, he has experienced tremendous loss from the deaths of many family members.

“All the deaths I have had to deal with have helped me have compassion for others who are going through the same thing,” he said. He has been working at the Robin Johnson Hospice House for two years, and in February was named its 2011 Employee of the Year.

“He has a big personality,” said Gaston Hospice Communications Specialist Emily Craig. “The patients love him and the staff loves him.”

Gregg Talton had been the program director for WYDE and WLGS radio in Birmingham, Ala., for 14 years. Tired of the stress and long working hours that kept him from his 2-year-old son, he finally told his wife of his desire to become a nurse. With her blessing, he turned in his resignation.

The day after he graduated from nursing school, the family moved to Belmont.

Talton credits his grandmother for his interest in nursing. “She prayed that all three of her daughters would become nurses,” he said. “They didn’t, but my sister and I did.”

He also recalls his grandmother being in terrible pain when she was dying of cancer. “This was before hospice, and she was dying at home.”

He was 12 years old at the time and said the experience played a large role in his desire to work as a hospice nurse.

Talton has worked at the Robin Johnson Hospice House for 21/2 years. He will travel to Ethiopia on a mission trip in February to teach Ethiopians how to teach health care.

Both men agree that a good listening ear is important in the field. “A lot of what we do here is listening to patients,” Duff said. “I really like that, because you can really spend quality time with them.”

To deal with all of the emotional aspects of the job, they said, they cry, pray and laugh right along with all the other nurses and staff members. But they admit that at times it can get a little overwhelming being in such an emotional environment, and they often feel the need to “check our ‘man meter,’ since we’re not in the typical man environment,” said Duff. Those times are a good time to talk football, said Talton.

Although men have been making inroads, the nursing industry today still is predominately female. The trend toward more male nurses, however, is moving the profession back to the past: The first nurses were men.

According to Nursing Today magazine, “Early nurses included holy men who organized to care for victims of bubonic plague during the Middle Ages.” Men continued to serve as nurses until the mid-1800s and included St. Benedict, Walt Whitman, James Derham and John Ciudad, to name a few.

Since he has been in nursing, Talton said, he is much more fulfilled. Duff said it feels good to be making a difference, and both men say they enjoy going to work.

According to one of their colleagues, Petrina Lynch, the two have proven women are not the only ones who can compassionately care for the sick.

Duff shows his affection for the patients with hugs and kisses, said Lynch, and Talton shows his through sweet words of affection.

“I love these two guys,” she said.

Sandy Whitesides is a freelance writer. Contact her at sandymwhitesides@aol.com for story ideas.

Read more: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2011/06/26/2401097/male-nurses-find-hospice-work.html#ixzz1Qb148mGo

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