Men of the Cardiac SICU

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By Mary Ellen Miller

An astonishing 20 percent of the nurses on Hopkins’ Cardiac Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) are male-more than three times the national average. What makes it such an appealing work site? The men say it’s the fast pace, the technology and the perspective they bring to working with families of the critically ill.

“We have a lot of autonomy,” says Aaron Crowther, who came to work on the unit directly out of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing two years ago. “The doctors trust us to make decisions and give us leeway with ‘as needed’ orders. If [a patient’s]potassium is low, we can give potassium. We don’t have to run for an order every time.”

Crowther’s co-worker, Michael Dawson, likes the immediate gratification that comes from that kind of independence, as well as the opportunity to work with his hands. Although he was a floor nurse before joining the Cardiac SICU six years ago, he feels that the unit, with its Swan and pulmonary artery catheters, its dialysis machines and balloon pumps, makes the best use of his analytical skills. “With all these gadgets, I get it. I get how they work, and I get what they do.”

Then there’s the matter of bringing emotional balance to a unit where reactions to illness among families vary widely. “When it comes to family members being ill, guys don’t look at it the same way that women look at it,” he says. “Having this mix on our staff lets us bring different perspectives to the table. I have gained so much from my female colleagues. This unit has been outstanding for me to develop as a nurse-emotionally, technically and professionally.”

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