RIGHT AT HOME - Studies show that a lack of male role models is one of the most commonly perceived barriers of entry for men considering nursing as a profession. Luckily for Steven Brayfield, a student in Rend Lake College's Licensed Practical Nursing program, a good role model wasn't hard to find. He is pictured above on the RLC campus with his dad, John Brayfield, who has worked 20 years in the field. John graduated from RLC's Associate Degree Nursing program in the early 90s and went on to earn his BSN. He is currently a charge nurse at the VA Medical Center in Marion. Steven will graduate from the LPN program on June 30. CLICK HERE for a larger image.
INA, Ill. – Steven Brayfield always wanted to be a biologist. After graduating from Christopher High School, the Mulkeytown resident enrolled at Rend Lake College and got on the degree track with some core classes like environmental ecology and biology. But a change of heart last Spring started him down a path that, while very different, hits close to home for the 20-year-old.
“It’s weird,” he said. “I never pictured myself working in a hospital. When I was younger, I was scared of them. I couldn’t even go inside one. So, when I chose nursing I didn’t really know if I would like it or not.”
One thing he could be sure of: By choosing to enter RLC’s nursing program, he would have quite the study partner. Brayfield is following in the footsteps of his father.
John Brayfield, 41, graduated from RLC’s Associate Degree Nursing program in 1992 and now holds a bachelor’s degree in nursing from McKendree University. He has worked 20 years in the field – working as a staff nurse and in same-day surgery – and is now a charge nurse in the emergency room at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Marion. Twenty years ago, he was passing through the exact same hallways where his son walks to class today.
“There is great opportunity for nurses in Southern Illinois,” John said. “If you look in the newspaper today, you’ll find a lot of nursing positions. I encouraged him to go into the CNA program.”
Steven completed the Certified Nurse Assistant program and will finish the Licensed Practical Nursing program on June 30. That qualifies him to take the state licensure examination for practical nurses. It has involved rigorous classroom and clinical testing to make sure he is prepared to enter the workforce.
“It’s been tough,” Steven said. “They are hard on you, but they need to be. If they’re not, you’re not going to be a better nurse. I really like it. I like seeing and talking to new people every day. I like helping people.”
He realizes stress will come with the job and said knowing that makes him respect his dad even more. In a field where a male role model can be hard to hunt down – studies have shown a lack of exposure to male role models in nursing was one of the most commonly perceived barriers – Steven didn’t have to look very far.
“When I’m doing my homework, I’ll call him 10 times a day,” Steven said. “He usually tells me to look it up in the book, but he’s always available for answers. It’s really helped me a lot studying and having him quiz me.”
A couple of weeks ago, Steven picked up an application to work at the VA. He heard about five openings for LPNs there. He said it’s a relief to be nearing the finish of the LPN program at RLC, but added it’s a little strange, the transition from flipping burgers at Larry’s Pit BBQ in Christopher to starting a career in nursing.
“Oh I’ve been thinking about that. I’m 20 years old and I’m actually going to have a real job with a lot of responsibility. It’s kind of hard to believe. I’m a little nervous, but it’s what I want to do. I want to work in the emergency room and become a nurse supervisor.”
If he makes it on at the VA, it should prove to be quite an adventure. It usually is when they get together, Steven said. Sure, their list of shared activities includes the customary hunting and fishing. But there’s also the unconventional stories about being struck by lightning in their front yard, an Elmer Fudd-like exploding shotgun barrel that ended their hunting season and left metal in John’s hand, and a runaway boat that carved into John’s shin, flayed his foot and forced him to seek treatment at a DuQuoin ER.
“I was about 10 when that happened,” Steven said. “I asked him if I needed to drive to the hospital. He said ‘no.’ And we still loaded up the boat before we left.”
And that was all in one year.
“We had a bad year that year,” John said with a grin.
“You know, he never told me I should go into nursing, but he was happy when I did,” Steven said. “I think it’s because he knows I’ll always have a good job. He told me that I can do a lot of things while being a nurse ... if I get more education.”
Steven’s plan is to work for a while before returning to RLC to work toward an associate degree in nursing. He said that choice came after consulting with his new mentor.
“He gives me a lot of advice on things, like what route to take. It’s pretty awesome,” Steven said. “I think he has seen everything there is to see in a hospital. I haven’t had a question yet he can’t answer.”
“I told him, finishing here and with a few years of experience, he can go anywhere in the country and get a job,” John said. “It’s a rewarding field ... and the field is wide open.”