Nursing opportunities attract male stockbroker

(Sun Sentinal) As a stockbroker, Jason Perlman was part of a throng of hopefuls eager to make the big bucks

Now as an oncology nurse, ex-Navy man and Harley rider, he is in a more unique category: a nurse in high demand as South Florida hospitals cope with shortages in critical nursing care areas. The fact that he is a male in a field dominated by woman is a bonus.

“The economy wasn’t good and nobody was hiring,” Perlman said.

He looked at nursing, where there are many opportunities to move up in a career – especially for men – and decided to make a career change.

Perlman could specialize as an ER nurse, become a hospital administrator, or go back for more schooling to become a nurse practitioner.

“For a man, the sky’s the limit. There are so few in the field,” he said.

But most influential in his decision was his personal care-giving experience over the years with his ailing mother and grandfather.  Perlman watched helplessly as they slowly slipped away within a month of each other in the summer of 2011.

“It was very tough to deal with. She was in so much pain,’’ he said of his mother, Eileen, who was 63 when she died.

Nurses will continue to be in demand in South Florida with the region’s older population and more Baby Boomers expected to retire in coming years. The nation’s new health care law also will increase the need for health care professionals, especially those who are technically savvy, as electronic medical records become the norm.
Registered nurses top the list of online job postings in South Florida and the state, and a shortage of more than 50,000 RNs is projected by 2025, according to the Florida Center for Nursing.

One reason is that older nurses are retiring, particularly from physically demanding, high stress roles, said Willa Fuller, executive director of the Florida Nurses Association. That will result in job openings for new nurses, who usually start at the patient’s bedside and are trained for emergency room and specialty positions, she said.

So when Perlman was helping to care for his mother in the hospital, nurses took notice.
His mother was in and out of the hospital and hospice care and was often too weak to handle her own personal care. Jason took care of it. He also helped his grandfather, who died at 88, by taking him toradiation therapy and handling his tube feedings.

“Nurses used to say, ‘you’re very good with your mom and grandfather. Maybe you’re in the wrong profession,’” he said.

The experience led Perlman on a new career path. He left the investment world, and went back to school to become a nurse.

He was a man in a woman’s world, or so he thought.

“I always thought nursing was a women’s job,” he said. “If 10 years ago you said I was going to be a nurse, I would think you were crazy.”

It’s not that way anymore. Perlman, 43, now works as an oncology nurse at Memorial West Hospital in Pembroke Pines.

More men have been drawn to nursing following care giving experiences with children or parents, said Suzanne Luongo, director of clinical work force development for the Memorial Hospital System.

“It feels good to raise your kids or really care for another individual,” she said.

South Florida’s nursing schools say they’ve seen more men enrolling in their programs.

In 2007, there was just one man in Boca Raton-based Florida Atlantic University’s accelerated nursing program, designed for those who already have college degrees. In 2013, there are 14 men in the program, said Sharon Dormire, assistant dean of FAU’s undergraduate nursing school.

At Nova Southeastern University in Davie, 11 percent of students currently enrollment in all nursing programs are men, said Marcella Rutherford, dean of the nursing school. Of those in entry-level programs in the fall of 2012, 15 percent were men, up from 9 percent a year ago.

“I think it’s the economy. They know they can get a job [in nursing],” Rutherford said.
Perlman said his mother, who lived to see him graduate from nursing school in May 2011, urged him to be compassionate, and he always keeps that in mind now that he’s caring for others.

As a nurse, he remembers those days caring for his mother as he works with a patient.
“You’re not going to have good days, but it’s nothing compared to what they’re going through. Whatever you’ve got going on, you’ve got to check it at the door,” he said.