As a sophomore at the University of South Carolina, my Vice President and I took over an organization called Men in Nursing. At the time the organization didn’t have any members, lacked a vision and the main question we asked ourselves is how can we recruit students to join Men in Nursing in a female dominated major such as nursing. To form a vision, we assessed ourselves and found that as a nursing student, it can be difficult for us to become involved in activities outside the classroom due to the rigor of our major which hinders our ability to obtain leadership positions. With that being said, we created a Mentor-Mentee initiative within our College of Nursing titled “Gamecocks Guide Their Young” to combat the stigma that nurses “eat” their young. To join Men in Nursing, you have to become either a Mentor or a Mentee and we found that those that are Mentors (juniors and seniors) will obtain a leadership position as they guide their mentee (freshman and sophomores) within the program. This initiative has led us to recruit 265 members in one year’s time and has been lauded as a centerpiece of student life within our College of Nursing which our faculty members have placed their full support behind to ensure this initiative lasts beyond my time at the University of South Carolina.
While the Mentor-Mentee initiative was a good start and gained much praise, I wanted to look broader. We wanted to help those beyond our scope, so I began to look at problems that ail our campus and campuses in the United States. Despite the great work of our school counselors and professionals within Student Health Services, every year students at the University of South Carolina commit suicide. While I’ve never known these students personally, as a member of the University of South Carolina student body, they are family and I searched for ways that I could make a difference. Over Christmas break of my junior year, I emailed faculty members at our University that handles our Carolina Cards. The Carolina Card is a card that all students and faculty members possess as it serves as a debit card when we purchase food on campus, allows us access to parking garages, is what we use to enter events such as football games and serves as a form of identification with our picture and named included on it. I advocated that the Carolina Card should have the National Suicide Prevention Hotline Number on the back of it, so students with these thoughts of suicide could seek help. While I don’t know those in need, my intent was to show that someone will be there to listen to them, even in their most challenging times.
Due to Men in Nursing’s efforts within the College of Nursing and on our campus, we were named the American Association for Men in Nursing’s 2016 Best College for Men in Nursing. While I’m proud of what we’ve done for others, this is simply what nurses do on a daily basis as we advocate for others. A lot of people ask me, what made you want to implement the number on the back of the Carolina Card and I credit it all to the principles that define nursing: compassion, empathy, determination and advocacy. With one more year left as a nursing student at the University of South Carolina and many more years to come as a registered nurse, I’m inspired to carry the baton that Florence Nightengale passed on to all of us- to be “lady/man with the lamp” as we shine the light of hope onto other’s darkest times.