From as far back as he can remember, Justin Smith wanted a career in the medical field, possibly as a doctor. Instead, the Sumter native followed a different path to his current career - one that is still considered by many to be non-traditional for …
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From as far back as he can remember, Justin Smith wanted a career in the medical field, possibly as a doctor. Instead, the Sumter native followed a different path to his current career - one that is still considered by many to be non-traditional for males. Smith is a nurse at Palmetto Health Tuomey, where he was born almost 36 years ago.
How non-traditional are male nurses? The most recent U.S. Census Bureau study revealed that 9.6 percent of registered nurses are males; but that is three times as many as in 1970. South Carolina follows close behind, with 7 percent, according to the S.C. Office for Healthcare Workforce.
Following the receipt of a Bachelor's Degree in Biology from the University of South Carolina in 2004, Smith returned to Sumter, where he said he "was met with very few job opportunities." He took an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) course and worked in that field for about three years, mainly providing emergency medical care and transportation.
"Being a basic EMT, my abilities to provide medical care were very limited," Smith said. "Wanting to develop even further as a healthcare professional, I made the decision to enter nursing school and have not looked back since."
Interestingly, he said he got very little flak from friends and family for choosing to pursue the traditionally female career.
"There was a little stereotyping and some internal struggle with being in a female-dominated profession," he admitted, but noted that "a career in nursing offers plenty of choices, such that you can almost adapt the profession to fit your lifestyle."
Smith also acknowledged the "element of job security" in the profession, as well as "career mobility, in that, as nurses, we can serve in a wide variety of venues, such as the hospital setting or even the legal system as a nurse consultant."
Palmetto Health Tuomey is very supportive of Smith's continuing development, he said.
"Since I began my nursing career nearly seven years ago, I have been very fortunate to work alongside a very dedicated leadership team that is constantly looking to promote competent professionals from within the organization," Smith said. "I intend to stay for many years to come."
His path to his current position as nurse manager in nephrology - the branch of medicine concerned with the kidneys - began with his earning an ADN, or Associate's Degree in Nursing, at Central Carolina Technical College, which gave him "a solid foundation on which to build." The completion of a Bachelor's Degree in Nursing from Francis Marion University in 2016 led him to FMU's Healthcare Executive Management program; he expects to complete his Master of Business Administration degree, the MBA-HEM, there in December.
Among the challenges of a nursing career, Smith said, is that staff and administration "must constantly adapt and respond to an ever-changing environment. That's the biggest challenge, finding enough time to constantly adapt to new technology. As a manager, I am constantly amazed at how well our team members respond to such change while still working to put our patients first."
Smith said, "You absolutely can earn a good living as a nurse - more than the median income for a family in Sumter. There are also opportunities for overtime," and there are pay benefits for working weekends and nights.
"It's absolutely a hard job," he added. "Being a frontline caregiver in healthcare, we're often expected to be in two places at once. The ability to manage time is crucial."
The primary reason for becoming a nurse, however, Smith said, is "being able to touch the lives of our patients and their families . (It is) why most of us answer this call to service."
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