President of American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN), William Lecher

Interview with William Lecher, June 25, 2013

BestNursingDegree: Talk about your background and what your role is with the American Assembly of Men in Nursing.

William Lecher: My background as a professional nurse is I've been a nurse for about 25 years now. I graduated from the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, near where I grew up. I moved to Chicago when I graduated and started working at Rush Medical Center. Worked there in the Chicago area for about 10 years, between Rush, Northwest, and Memorial Hospital as a staff nurse and assistant manager, then a manager, then a director. I've spent the last 15 years in Cincinnati, Ohio, at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, where I currently work as a Senior Clinical Director for the Specialty Resource Unit.

William Lecher: Cheryl Hoying is our Chief Nursing Officer, and she came to Cincinnati Children's in 2006. Upon her arrival, asked if I had any involvement with the Men in Nursing Organization, encouraged me to get involved and start a local chapter here in the Cincinnati area of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing. It started there and I haven't looked back since. I'm currently the president of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing. This is my second term in the president position. Each term is a 2-year term. I'm almost a year into the second term, so I've got about a little more than a year left as president of AAMN.

BestNursingDegree: What is the mission of the American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN)?

William Lecher: The American Assembly for Men in Nursing really focuses on the recruitment and retention of men in nursing, and specifically men's health in addition to that. As nurses and healthcare providers, men's health has a lot of synergy for us. We focus on the recruitment and retention for men in nursing, as well as men's health as a priority.

BestNursingDegree: What are some of the benefits and advantages of joining AAMN?

William Lecher: One of the main benefits comes from our value proposition. The value proposition for the American Assembly for Men in Nursing is we're the only professional nursing organization who is really dedicated toward increasing gender diversity inclusion in the nursing workforce and supporting men to become nurses and stay in nursing. As a result of that, we've increased the gender diversity within the profession and continue to support that type of an objective. We have . . . what follows from that value proposition is this whole idea of brotherhood, or this fellowship; our collective sense of belonging that's shared by both men and women nurses alike for this idea of further gender diversity inclusion in the workforce and to really understand and articulate the value that men bring to the nursing profession and patient care.

BestNursingDegree: What are some of important things to consider for men thinking of going into nursing?

William Lecher: From an education perspective, it's very important for students their first term in school to focus on school and do very well their first term. The retention rate of that first term to the second term is directly correlated with graduation rates and retention through the curriculum. If men are working a second job, they really need to see if they can cutback, have other supports for income, or ways to reduce expenses so they don't have to work as much. If a guy needs additional tutoring regarding one of the science courses or something like that, take it up because your success in that first science class will build upon your success in the second, third, fourth, and fifth science classes in the nursing curriculum.

William Lecher: If there's an opportunity for mentoring, take it. If there isn't an opportunity, see if you can make one for mentoring, whether that's upperclassmen at the school, a male faculty member, or a guy that works in the nursing professional workforce. The supports that you have and that you develop early in nursing school will help you sustain your nursing education and your potential for graduation, and then entering the workforce as a professional nurse.

William Lecher: The American Assembly for Men in Nursing's also interested in academic progression for nurses. A lot of guys will come into nursing as a second degree, and some of those will pursue the Associate degree. Even traditional students will pursue the Associate degree as their entry into nursing practice. It's very important if you pick an Associate degree program to pick a school that has strong articulation for [inaudible: :04:31] transfer of your credits. Almost every school will state that they have national accreditation, but you want to make sure and ask the second question, "Does that accreditation result in my credits taken at the Associate degree being directly transferable to the local schools, whether it's a state school, a private school, or a for-profit school?" You want to really make sure that the value you're placing in your early education, that investment will carry forward so that you can continue your academic progression in nursing should you want to do that.

William Lecher: Then third and important to the American Assembly for Men in Nursing from an education perspective is directly related to the Future in Nursing Report that was issued by the Institute of Medicine in October 2010. There's two specific goals or recommendations that we've aligned with that. The first is, nationally, the country is moving toward 80% of the registered nurses having a Baccalaureate of Science in Nursing or higher by the year of 2020. For the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, we just mirror that goal as one of our organizational priorities. As a strategic priority, we would like to have by the year 2020, 80% of the men in nursing to have a Baccalaureate Degree by the year of 2020. Recommendation Number 5 from the Institute of Medicine Report has to do with doubling the number of doctorately-prepared nurses in our country. Again for the American Assembly for Men in Nursing, our frame of reference on that is that we would like to double the number of men with a doctorate degree right now to the year 2020 to have twice as many men to have a doctorate in nursing by the year 2020, than the current baseline.

BestNursingDegree: How have perceptions of men in nursing changed in recent years?

William Lecher: The perceptions for men in nursing have changed a lot in recent years. The US Census Bureau did a report recently; it came out February 25th, I believe it was, that showed for the first time the nursing workforce has hit 9.6%, or almost 10%, men nationally. That is similar with the other types of things that we've seen. In the Baccalaureate programs are running almost 12% men. The second degree programs, the accelerated programs, are running 20% and sometimes as high as 30% men. What was sometime a reluctant career choice for men, or parents to encourage their boys to grow up or finish high school and move on the traditional path to the college of nursing, is a lot different than it was in the past. There certainly is still some stereotypes that exist, and there's probably some latent discrimination from a gender perspective in nursing school and the nursing workforce, but they're much less than they've ever been.

BestNursingDegree: Are there challenges specific to male nurses?

William Lecher: The challenges to being a male nurse, or a man in nursing, are probably the same things as they were 10, 20, or even 30 years ago. It's still a predominantly female-dominated profession, so men stand out a little bit. There is sometimes some social acceptance of men in certain clinical areas. The obstetrics or birthing areas are one area where men still have a little bit of difficulty sometimes from a social acceptance from the professional healthcare team, or even sometimes from patients or families. We've gone a long way at improving that, and we have many men that are nurse midwives now or men that are working on obstetrical units as compared to prior years.

BestNursingDegree: What are some typical career paths for male nurses?

William Lecher: The career paths for men these days are very wide and varied; they're the exact same career paths that women have in nursing. In recent years, over the prior decades, though, men were often relegated to certain roles. My title at work is Senior Clinical Director of Nursing; that's a nursing administrative track. That would be perceived historically as an area where men should work based on gender, preferences, and social norms, if you will. Men were also relegated to high-tech, low-touch areas like the intensive care unit, the emergency department, or flight nursing. Those are still great places for men to work. Men actually can work in any area, whether it's a general care medical surgical unit, it's a rehab unit, long- term care, or sub-acute care. The low-tech, high-touch areas, men have the same capacity to care as women, it's just expressed differently.

William Lecher: In previous years, men were often relegated, mentored, or directed toward areas that were low-touch and high-tech. Men are working in all your areas of nursing right now. Just the abundance of career pathways, whether it's in acute care, across the continuum of care in the healthcare system, if it's in preventative care, public health, school health, community health, home care. If it's geographic location that a guy wants to work, so if he wants to work in a bigger urban environment, he can work Los Angeles, San Francisco, California, Chicago, Atlanta, New York, Boston; most men in nursing can get a job in modern day, in any one of those cities at almost any time. If there was a man that wanted to work in a more rural or less populated area, he could work on the western slope of the Rocky Mountains, or he can work in Denver on the other side of the slope. Just the geographic mobility with the career pathway is just so abundant for men as well as for women.

BestNursingDegree: What is the job outlook for male nurses currently?

William Lecher: The job outlook for men in nursing is overall very good. We have a unique thing going on right now in our country where the recession has resulted in less turnover or retirements, if you will. Nurses are working longer, and the current new graduates are facing a job market that's a little tougher than what we would've anticipated, or they would've, when they started nursing school. Having said that, there's still plenty of jobs available. For instance, at Cincinnati Children's where I work, we have over 100 staff nurse positions on our job posting right now. If anybody that's listening to this wants to relocate and work in pediatrics, gosh, we'd be glad to have you apply and consider you. It's really regional and geographic where there are some areas where their jobs are really tight. Part of that's related to healthcare reform and the worry about hospitals and payment systems. Part of that is related to some of jobs aren't in acute care anymore, they're in other areas and not as traditional for a new graduate to go to. They're a little harder to get into, or harder to source or find.

William Lecher: We're still going to be short hundreds of thousands of nurses over the next 10 years, particularly once these retirements start occurring. The average age for a nurse is something like 48-years-old. That means that there are a bunch of them that are above average age that are going to be leaving the workforce and the replacement workers are so important. Even though it might be hard right now for nurses to find a job, the rest of their career is still going to have plenty of income security and job security.

BestNursingDegree: Do you have any additional advice for aspiring nurses?

William Lecher: Nursing is just such a wonderful career opportunity, whether you're a man or a woman, or you're a racial or ethnically diverse person, whether you're young or a little bit older pursuing a second or even a third career; consider us. Nursing has the opportunity to provide a long and rich career that's wide and varied as far as opportunity goes. I relate it to work, relate it to geographic setting, and the opportunity to make a difference in people's lives every day. The work is never the same. You'll never be board as a registered nurse; at least I hope you won't be. This opportunity to make a difference in people's lives and your community is just so enriching and provides a lot of benefit as an employee and a professional.