Oklahoma City University’s Bachelor’s-to-BSN program has a record 45 students enrolled in its latest class. Nearly half of the students who began classes Jan. 12 are men, signaling a new trend that OCU’s Kramer School of Nursing Dean Marvel Williamson says can help overcome the nation’s nursing shortage.

Oklahoma City University recently launched its Moving and Mentoring Men into Nursing program and offered 12 scholarships to deserving male students pursuing careers in nursing. Funding for the $10,000 scholarships was provided by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Scholarship recipients are men who already hold bachelor’s degrees in other fields and have enrolled in OCU’s accelerated 16-month Bachelor’s-to-BSN program.

Nathan Silva, a firefighter from California who battled some of the recent wildfires, is one the 22 men studying to become a nurse at OCU as part of the new mentorship program.

“Nursing has been in the back of my mind for a long time,” explained Silva, 30, who holds degrees in history and political science. “The first part of your life is the adventure part, but you have to help out at some point and this is something that will enable me to give back a little.”

David Jackson just returned from a tour of duty in Iraq with the U.S. Army and opted to pursue a nursing degree. He served 15 years with the Army and was discharged Jan. 11 as a first lieutenant. Jackson holds a general studies degree, an MBA and has completed PhD work in aviation and space science. Jackson said ultimately he decided nursing was the career for him.

Jackson recalled hurting his leg about 13 years ago while he was in the Army and temporarily working in the medical section while he recovered.

“I really got attached and working in the medical field is something I have always wanted to do,” he said.

Jackson plans to re-enlist in the military upon graduating and plans on working as a nurse in the Navy.

Donald Yan moved to Oklahoma City from California where he studied visual arts at the University of California at San Diego, completed a variety of film projects and worked as a production assistant with Entertainment Tonight.

Yan, 25, spent many hours in California as a hospital volunteer and said he gained a passion for working with patients and their families.

“I was surprised to see all of the men who are in this program,” Yan said. “I was expecting it to be maybe 90 percent female, but it’s about 50/50. It’s really great.”

Silva said he enjoys the program’s focus.

“The professors are all geared to adult students and there are some great scholarship opportunities,” he said. “My classmates are amazing and the amount of diversity and excitement we have is great. It’s going to be a good time and a great experience.”

Williamson said she is especially pleased with the caliber of students enrolled in this class and their diversity, noting that 49 percent of the students are non-white. Williamson said men currently comprise just 5.8 percent of the nursing workforce and recruiting more men to the profession could significantly reduce the nursing shortage.

“Moving more men into nursing will positively affect the profession, just as greater diversity within the workforce improves the effectiveness of any field,” Williamson said. “We look forward to the new ideas that gender diversity will foster, as well as the new perspectives from the many interdisciplinary backgrounds of all our career changers, both men and women.”

Kramer School of Nursing graduates can choose many career paths including patient care in acute and chronic care facilities, community health, owning their own businesses, school nursing, flight nursing, emergency care, occupational health, military nursing, administration, nursing education and research.