Jobs in health sec­tor are draw­ing more men

As tech ad­vances threaten to dis­pro­por­tion­ately hit male-dom­i­nated oc­cu­pa­tions, the health­care field may be key to keep­ing them em­ployed

Los Angeles Times - - BUSINESS - By Alexia Ele­jalde-Ruiz

Chauncey In­car­nato cy­cled through a va­ri­ety of jobs af­ter grad­u­at­ing from col­lege: con­struc­tion, per­sonal trainer, ho­tel bell­man, bouncer at bars. But none stuck, and even long work­weeks barely cov­ered his bills.

In­car­nato was skep­ti­cal when his mom, a nurse for more than 30 years, sug­gested a ca­reer in health­care. But af­ter a six-month course to be­come a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant, In­car­nato dis­cov­ered care­giv­ing in­stincts he didn’t re­al­ize he had.

Work­ing at a skilled nurs­ing fa­cil­ity, In­car­nato found the phys­i­cal­ity of the job, plus the re­la­tion­ships formed with pa­tients, deeply re­ward­ing. He went back to school to be­come a reg­is­tered nurse and hopes more men fol­low suit.

“Once you’re the per­son in the room talk­ing to the pa­tient, see­ing the ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the choices you make, I don’t see how any­one can not be pulled into it,” said In­car­nato, 31, a nurse in the neu­ro­log­i­cal trauma in­ten­sive care unit at North­west­ern Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal in Chicago.

In­car­nato is part of a small but grow­ing con­tin­gent of men pur­su­ing jobs tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated

by women in the fast-grow­ing health sec­tor, a choice some econ­o­mists say may be key to stanch­ing a trou­bling ex­o­dus of men from work­ing life.

The rate of U.S. men par­tic­i­pat­ing in the la­bor force — mean­ing they’re work­ing or look­ing for work — has been de­clin­ing for 50 years, a trend that could carry ram­i­fi­ca­tions for eco­nomic growth as well as in­di­vid­ual and fam­ily well-be­ing. And more au­to­ma­tion, par­tic­u­larly ad­vance­ments in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, threat­ens to dis­pro­por­tion­ately hit tra­di­tion­ally male-dom­i­nated jobs.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing, agri­cul­ture and util­i­ties, all of which em­ploy mostly men, are pro­jected to lose jobs over the next decade, ac­cord­ing to the Bu­reau of La­bor Sta­tis­tics.

Mean­while, nine of the 12 fastest-grow­ing jobs in the U.S. are in health­care, topped by oc­cu­pa­tional ther­apy as­sis­tants, phys­i­cal ther­apy as­sis­tants and nurse prac­ti­tion­ers — po­si­tions held mostly by women.

“The grow­ing pro­fes­sions are more car­ing,” said Ni­cholas Eber­stadt, a po­lit­i­cal econ­o­mist at the Amer­i­can En­ter­prise In­sti­tute and au­thor of “Men With­out Work.” “Can this be a man’s world too?”

Some say it needs to be, not just for the sake of men but also for the sake of the health­care field. Take nurs­ing, which will need an es­ti­mated 1.13 mil­lion new reg­is­tered nurses over the next decade, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Nurses Assn.

Ef­forts to bring more men into the nurs­ing ranks seem to be work­ing, al­beit mod­estly. About 10% to 12% of reg­is­tered nurses are men, com­pared with less than 3% in the early 1970s, ac­cord­ing to cen­sus fig­ures.

Di­ver­sity among nurses, gen­der and oth­er­wise, is good for pa­tients be­cause those re­la­tion­ships are in­ti­mate and it helps to have ac­cess to some­one who can re­late, said Mar­quis Fore­man, dean of the Col­lege of Nurs­ing at Rush Univer­sity.

It could also bode well for men’s fu­ture em­ploy­ment prospects, given pro­jec­tions that the jobs that will sur­vive ad­vance­ments in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence are those that re­quire dis­tinctly hu­man ca­pa­bil­i­ties such as em­pa­thy, said Kristin Sharp, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Shift Com­mis­sion on Work, Work­ers and Tech­nol­ogy, an ini­tia­tive of pub­lic pol­icy think tank New Amer­ica and Bloomberg.

Un­der one sce­nario out­lined by Shift, tech­no­log­i­cal in­no­va­tion over the long run could mean jobs will in­creas­ingly re­volve around car­ing for oth­ers, in­clud­ing in fields such as el­der care, child care and teach­ing. Keep­ing men en­gaged in the work­place will mean find­ing ways to in­ter­est them — and help them thrive — in these jobs.

There has been a notable de­cline in work among men of prime work­ing age, 25 to 54, when they should be most pro­duc­tive. The drop has been par­tic­u­larly acute among men with a high school de­gree or less, ac­cord­ing to a pa­per is­sued last year by the White House.

It’s not that these men are stay­ing home with the kids — non­work­ing men re­port spend­ing less time tak­ing care of fam­ily mem­bers than em­ployed women.

Part of the rea­son that less-ed­u­cated men are opt­ing out of work is that off­shoring, glob­al­iza­tion and au­to­ma­tion have squeezed man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs, leav­ing them with fewer op­tions. De­pressed wages at the bot­tom of the lad­der also pro­vide lit­tle in­cen­tive to work, the White House pa­per said.

But many ad­vanced economies have faced glob­al­iza­tion and au­to­ma­tion pres­sures with­out as se­vere a de­cline in work­ing men, Eber­stadt said.

Juan Soto, 33, sees some of the list­less­ness among his peers and wishes that they would be more open to jobs in health­care, as he was.

Soto, who lives in Chicago and has his GED, worked in con­struc­tion and did some ware­house work be­fore he de­cided to be­come a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant. In April he grad­u­ated from a pro­gram that trains un­der­em­ployed peo­ple in his­tor­i­cally dis­en­fran­chised neigh­bor­hoods in high-de­mand health­care jobs.

Soto, the only man in his class of 23, said he al­ways felt that some­thing was miss­ing in his work. Af­ter a car ac­ci­dent last year caused him to lose his con­struc­tion job, he took a leap of faith and joined the pro­gram.

“The first day we had ori­en­ta­tion, I knew that’s the place I wanted to be,” he said.

Soto said he is driven by com­pas­sion be­cause the pay is low. He hopes to be­come a trauma nurse or a doc­tor to set an ex­am­ple for his two chil­dren, 10 and 13.

In­car­nato, the for­mer bouncer who is now a nurse at North­west­ern, said he wor­ried at first that he’d be a fish out of wa­ter. Grow­ing up in a small town in Ohio, the son of a steel­worker, he didn’t know men who were nurses. And as a for­mer col­lege foot­ball player who ma­jored in so­ci­ol­ogy, he was more con­fi­dent in his brawn and work ethic than his abil­ity to un­der­stand medicine.

While he never con­sid­ered him­self par­tic­u­larly nur­tur­ing, “the job brings it out in you,” In­car­nato said.

It taps into stereo­typ­i­cally male ten­den­cies too.

“I think any guy will feel like this: It’s this sense of, ‘I need to take con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion and take care of this per­son,’ ” he said. “I need to con­trol chaos and keep ev­ery­thing run­ning in the right di­rec­tion.”

Chris Sweda Chicago Tri­bune

JUAN SOTO, who grad­u­ated from a pro­gram to be a cer­ti­fied nurs­ing as­sis­tant, hopes to fur­ther his stud­ies to be­come a trauma nurse or a doc­tor to set an ex­am­ple for his two chil­dren, Ni­cholas, 13, left, and Jo­ce­lyn, 10.

Ter­rence An­to­nio James Chicago Tri­bune

WHILE HE never con­sid­ered him­self par­tic­u­larly nur­tur­ing, “the job brings it out in you,” says Chauncey In­car­nato, a nurse in the neu­ro­log­i­cal trauma in­ten­sive care unit at North­west­ern Me­mo­rial Hos­pi­tal.

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