John Barfield fought to become a male nurse through the civil rights movement and stereotypes that only women wanted to go into nursing. Later on, Barfield noticed a recent change in his 42 years as a nurse: an increase in male nurses coming from the military.

(Photo Courtesy of Fred Brown Jr.)

(Photo Courtesy of Fred Brown Jr.)

Fred Brown Jr., the unit director at Rush University Medical Center, is a primary example of this newer group.

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“I initially started my college career as an engineering student at the University of Illinois at Chicago,” said Brown. “I later switched my major to nursing after I joined the Air Force Reserve and became a medical technician. I chose med technician because I thought there would be some opportunities after I finished my military career.”

Brown was in the military for a total of 22 years — 12 years in the Air Force Reserve and 10 years in the Navy Reserve. His combined total of nursing both in and out of the military has been for 25 years.

Brown’s educational background includes a bachelor’s degree from Rush University, a master’s degree in orthopedic nursing and a Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.). He now directs 13 East Tower‘s nurses, patient care technicians, orthopedic orderlies and unit clerks.

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“The opportunities are now different in nursing. Before it was [all] traditional bedside. [Now] we have nurse educators, wound care specialists, operating room nurses, emergency room nurses and nurse leaders. I think that’s making the profession attractive for all men and women.”

Although he’d opted out of his original goal in engineering, there was a course he took that he’d recommend other nursing students sign up for.

“I took a lot of psychology classes. I think that has helped me a lot as a registered nurse because it’s not as much of the science of nursing but also the mental well-being. Nursing is a very personal profession. You can be taught to start an IV or to apply a blood pressure cuff, but that personal connection makes a difference.”

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Shamontiel L. Vaughn is a professional journalist who has work featured in AXS, Yahoo!, Chicago Defender and Chicago Tribune. She’s been an Examiner since 2009 and currently writes about 10 categories on