From heavy industry to intensive care

Kurt Edwards is a male nurse at Sheffield Manor Nursing and Rehab Center on Detroit's west side. Before he was trained in nursing, he was laid off in 2007 from his job stocking a warehouse.

Four years ago this month the investment bank Bear Stearns collapsed. Two years ago this month the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovered around 6,500. We've weathered a global financial crisis, a deep recession, millions upon millions of job losses, foreclosures, ponzi schemes, downgrades and debt ceilings. It has been, in a word, “wrenching.”

But now we're turning to another word. One on everyone's mind last month because of a Superbowl ad starring Clint Eastwood about Detroit, Michigan’s "comeback."

While the numbers are starting to look better, every survivor of the Great Recession has a tale to tell of spiraling downward and the efforts they've made to rebound. We start, appropriately enough, with two survivors in Detroit. They are Timothy Hank, 32, and Kurt Edwards, 49. Hank worked for Ford, making axles for trucks for $25 per hour for nearly a decade, but when he saw the writing on the wall, he took a buyout offered to him to vacate his position.

“I just didn’t want to be in a position where they controlled my fate,” he told Tess Vigeland. “I figured I’d jump in and do something else.” Hank took the $15,000 per year Ford offered for four years to go to nursing school at Wayne State, where only a quarter of his fellow graduates were male. He now works in the critical care unit at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.

Kurt Edwards came to the nursing profession after serving as a soldier and working in a warehouse worker. He would never have thought of going into the caring professions were it not for a girlfriend’s suggestion. “I’m not going to nursing school!” was Edwards’ original reaction to the idea. But he eventually came around. “It can’t be that hard if these women are doing it,” he jokes.

He scrimped and saved to put himself through nursing school, and graduated in 2010. He is now a licensed practical nurse working the graveyard shift at Sheffield Manor Nursing Home on the west side of Detroit.

He and Hank chose new careers wisely. Tess Vigeland reports that Michigan’s Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth estimate a shortage of 18,000 nurses in Michigan in the next three years.

For Edwards, his new job isn’t just a positive statistic indicating a recovery from an economic crisis. It’s something more personal than that. “I wake up every day and I’m very proud,” he told Tess. “I’m looking in the mirror, and I’m happy and proud, and I’m saying, ‘This turned out great.’”

About the author

Tess Vigeland is the host of Marketplace Money, where she takes a deep dive into why we do what we do with our money.
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@samiam333 Lighten up Samian333, lighten up. The piece is honest. You are overly sensitive about your profession. It is primarily populated by women. Men are the minority. Get over it.

Thank you Miami-Sid, I don't know you but I appreciate you asking Samian333 to lighten up. I was the subject of the story and it was very honest. The fact is women do populate the profession.

I am impressed by the folks comprising the "ComebackChronicles," but I have some issues with the nursing segment:

1st you implied that a Licensed Practical Nurse is the same as an RN. Not so: The registered nurse has more education, is skilled in more interventions, passes a different examination in his or her state and is licensed to direct the LPN. Only the RN can evaluate and assess a patient, the LPN can not. The LPN reports to the RN.

Secondly: What nurse says, "You expect to see a male doctor, but not a male nurse." It is shocking to hear such a sexist remark. Does she still stand when a physician enters the room, or allow a physician to verbally abuse her? This nurse needs a reorientation to the healthcare environment.
The new LPN said 12 out of 44 in his class were male. This is not an insignificant percentage.

Finally: I found it incredible that this same hiring nurse comments on the new LPN's looks and that so many females will be seeing him as husband/partner material. Yuk! This nurse should not be in a position to hire new nurses and her healthcare center is ill advised to allow her to be a spokesperson. I suggest the whole organization needs a formal orientation to sexual appropriateness in the work place.

I listened twice, and nobody implied that an LPN = RN (nor did they specifically make a distinction, but that's not the subject of the story). But I am happy for you that you get to direct the LPNs.
My close friend is a nurse. He is 23 and his patients (male and female) often assume he is an MD intern. Bias in our society is real!
I have seen in my career how one lady added to a team of 10 guys (esp as leader) can change the dynamic. I have no doubt that the reverse is true!

#1. Why would you be so insulting about the career path I chose. The story was about an economic crisis taking place and doing something about it. If time and the waiting lists for most RN programs would have permit, of course I would have went that way. This was not about who reports to who and what responsibilities one job has over another. And check the record...we do assessments.
#2. My supervisor has been an RN for over 20 yrs. The other person you listened to was my administrator. She had in role in my hiring. Of the 20+ nurses at my facility, there are only two males. In context, she was referancing the dynamics of a male in the workplace. Not the hiring practices of the facility.
I am very proud of the story, and Tess did an awesome job. I am sure you care deeply for the profession and I am writing this because all who enter health care from the c.n.a. to the doctors whom we all report to should not ever put each other down. And by the way, I am enrolled in school for RN.

From one man to another. I respect you for:
1. venturing into the unknown
2. the hard work (1 year of accelerated classes!)
3. how much you sacrificed (4 months with no electricity!)
4. not being held back by 'what people think'
5. the example you are setting for young people
Good luck with the remainder of your studies!

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