SALISBURY, MD---Trained by the U.S. Army to be a licensed practical nurse, Gary Skirka worked at Walter Reed Army Hospital and was one of the responders to the Pentagon on 9/11. He said he found his calling and wanted to learn more, so he enrolled in Salisbury University’s Second Degree Nursing Program. Chris DiPasqua has a master’s degree in education, but knew he wanted to be a nurse after participating in the birth of his two children. He started the program this fall and joins several family members in the profession, including his wife and brother.
Both students will earn a Bachelor of Science in nursing through the program, which is designed for people with a previous bachelor’s degree. They will graduate in just three full-time semesters from Salisbury’s accelerated Second Degree Nursing Program – the only one of its kind on the Eastern Shore. It attracts students from a variety of backgrounds.
“While nationally, only about 6-7 percent of nurses are men, approximately 25 percent of Salisbury University’s Second Degree nursing students are men,” said Dr. Karin Johnson, director of graduate and second degree programs in SU’s Richard A. Henson School of Science and Technology. “The 41 percent of hospital patients who are men need nurses who will offer a male perspective to patient care, as do men in other health care settings,” she said.
When DiPasqua, of Quantico, MD, begins working at Peninsula Regional Medical Center he thinks he will be able to relate to a male client on a personal level. “The men in the program break the stereotype that men aren’t for the caring profession,” he said. Dr. William Campbell, interim associate chair of the Department of Nursing, noted the unique viewpoint male nurses contribute can also influence communication with physicians and hospital administration. “We need male nurses,” he said.
The students who are attracted to the Second Degree Program have broad educational backgrounds and experiences, from former teachers to Army veterans such as Skirka. “While at Walter Reed, we received a lot of wounded soldiers from Iraq and I worked in the intensive care and trauma units where you never sat down or stopped moving,” he said. At SU, he has had the opportunity to learn the theory behind the skills and experience new areas, such as community health nursing and psychiatric nursing. After graduating in December, he plans to work near his Easton, MD, home and earn a master’s from the University to become a nurse practitioner.
Scott Christensen, of Salisbury, started his career in music but plans to work in intensive care after graduating from the program in December, along with the three other men in the class of 17. Salisbury resident Matt Brown was drawn to nursing after completing an undergraduate degree in public health. “It was good to be able to help more people at once from the preventative aspect, but I wanted to get that hands-on feeling when we can’t prevent sickness or disease,” he said. Brown is one of four male students, in a new class of 18, who began the program in September.
There is a great need for qualified health professionals across the nation. According to the Department of Labor, in 2005 the mean wage for Maryland nurses was $67, 330. Even higher salaries are common among nurses who work weekend, evening or night shifts. Campbell said that “with the competitive salaries available, flexible scheduling and the potential for advancement, nursing as a profession is very conducive to supporting a family.” All four male students graduating in December are married and most have children.
Upon completing the second degree program, students are able to take the licensure exam in nursing. Male graduates have gone on to work in a number of different settings including intensive care, emergency rooms, cardiac care, and as flight nurses. Some have continued their education at the graduate level as nurse practitioners, nurse educators, clinical specialists and nurse leaders.
For more information about SU’s Second Degree Nursing Program, call 410-543-6411 or visit the SU website at www.salisbury.edu.