More men helping to change face of nursing

THE cool new technology and women colleagues fussing over them are great fringe benefits, but it is the deep sense of satisfaction when seeing a healthy patient walk out of hospital that makes male nurses stay.

Some of them have worked their way up from being cleaners in the hospital's kitchen, drivers and porters to become highly specialised nurses.

One even had to pay for his own studies as his father refused because it was "a woman's job".

Today there are 15 male nurses working in the Life Healthcare group's hospitals in Port Elizabeth and all agree that nursing is not just a woman's job.

Big healthcare groups like Life Healthcare were looking more and more to men to fill the close to 70000 vacancies for nurses in South Africa, regional manager Bruce Janssens said.

"The doctors call our female colleagues 'sister' and they call us by our names," nurse Chris van Jaarsveldt said. Whatever the title, the men who have ventured into the traditionally women's world of nursing did so because they believed it was their calling.

Mercantile Hospital's nursing standards manager, Benjamin Deyzel, started nursing in 1982. "I don't think patients are surprised anymore to see a male nurse – they are just looking for a service."

Former IT consultant Dave Stiglingh said he originally wanted to be a doctor but his marks were not good enough.

He works in Life St George's Hospital's cardiothoracic intensive care unit. "When you work in ICU you get to work with lots of new and really cool technology. It is not only bedpans and tablets. You have to use your mind," Stiglingh said.

Norman Young, who started working as a nurse at 16, said he was deeply motivated by his mother's death. "She died of a psychiatric problem. I never knew what happened to her. I used to stay away from school to give her her pills. It took me four years to discover she had post-natal depression."

Young now works at Life Hunterscraig Hospital but spent most of his career nursing at Elizabeth Donkin Psychiatric Hospital. "This is my mission in life," he said.

Virgil Hendricks worked as a factory cleaner after he left school and then took a job as a porter at Life St George's. "I wanted to be more than a porter," he said of his decision to start training as a nurse.

At first he encountered a lot of resistance from his family who believed nursing was not a man's job.

"I abolished those negative words. I was blessed to be accepted. It wasn't just a job for me. I wanted a career." Hendricks is a nurse in the oncology department. "My patients come into my ward on a stretcher and I strive to see them walking out when they are discharged. It really puts a smile on your face," he said.

Sania Jordaan, who works in theatre at Mercantile Hospital, said for him the best moment of his day was to see a patient who was in pain leave the hospital in a better space.

"I am the only male nurse in theatre. I love it. My female colleagues really look after me."

Zandisile Magogo also works at Life Mercantile Hospital, in the medical ward. "I have to be their nurse, educator and social worker. The family needs you to be there."

Colvan Maphophe grew up in the Transkei and worked as a delivery man in Johannesburg at first.

After completing a computer course, he worked his way up to sales manager at a bank. "I always wanted to be a nurse and do something for people ... I wanted to make an impact." He works in Life Mercantile's intensive care unit.

He joked that being the only male nurse in ICU had its own benefits.

"My colleagues worked out their own routine – someone different brings me lunch every day."

Edward Alexander worked in several factories, at a gym and as a paramedic before he got into nursing. "The best part is when patients come and give you a big hug when they leave the hospital," he said.

Siyabonga Siyo, who works as a staff nurse in theatre, said his way into nursing was a long journey.

"I started at St George's Hospital in 2004 working as a cleaner in the kitchen. Then I became a supervisor. I got interested in working in theatre and became a porter here. Eventually I got a chance to study."

Allan McTaggart runs the open heart theatre at Life St George's Hospital. "The only drawback I can think of is that it is not very sexy to tell a girl that you are a nurse, but you must just get over it," he said.

Henry Crause, who first worked as a porter at Cuyler Hospital, said that after seeing a surgical theatre on television he knew he wanted to work there. -  Estelle Ellis