After losing construction job, Mattituck man finds calling as nurse

Douglas Massey

When Doug Massey, 50, of Mattituck was laid off from his job as a construction project manager three years ago, he methodically went about picking out a new career that would guarantee security for his family of four. In the process, he found his life’s calling.

Mr. Massey researched growing employment sectors and learned that nurses were in short supply nationwide. He quickly signed up for a course to earn a nursing assistant certificate from BOCES, then became a nursing assistant at Stony Brook University Hospital, all the while fighting his way into Suffolk County Community College’s competitive nursing program, without giving a second thought to the relative scarcity of male nurses.

Just 18 percent of Suffolk’s nursing students are men, and though he said some people are surprised that he chose a female-dominated profession, Mr. Massey doesn’t give their comments a moment’s thought.

“I put them down as dinosaurs,” he said of his detractors. “There are plenty of nurses that are men and are doing the same stuff women have done for years and years.”

Mr. Massey’s achievements over the past two years — including serving as president of the college’s nursing club and being named to the Phi Theta Kappa honor society, working full-time as a nursing assistant, maintaining a 3.7 GPA and raising three young children — have not gone unnoticed by administrators, who are delighted to see a man enter into what is customarily thought of as a female field.

Last month, Mr. Massey was one of eight recipients of the New York State Vanguard Student Recognition Award, a $100 award and certificate given to a student enrolled in a program not common to his or her gender. He recently attended an awards ceremony in Albany with his wife, Debbie, whom he credits as being his biggest supporter.

“If a person is caring, has the intellectual capacity to make it through nursing school and can apply that knowledge on the job, then that is what really matters,” said Mr. Massey. “If you are empathetic and not afraid to show it, then nursing is the right profession for you.

“I love doing this,” hew added. “I love helping people. There’s nothing better. Helping people get back to full function is as good as it can get. I’m a lucky guy to have fallen into it.”

Mr. Massey is scheduled to graduate in May with an associate degree, and will then be eligible to become licensed as a registered nurse. He’s hoping to continue to work at Stony Brook as an RN.

“As a nursing assistant, you have a license from the state, but you have no real scope of practice,” he said. “I can’t do many of the things that RNs can do, such as assessing patients, diagnosis, implementing a plan, evaluating a plan, giving medication or wound care.”

Though nurses are still in high demand nationwide, Mr. Massey discovered during his studies that Long Island actually has a glut of nurses, in part because the region is home to five nursing schools, including the one at Suffolk, which is the largest in the state and the sixth largest in the country.

Though he said that nurses with bachelor’s degrees usually have a much easier time getting hired here, he’s counting on his record of working the noon to 8:30 p.m. shift at Stony Brook to give him an edge.

“The nurse manager has been very good to me,” Mr. Massey said. “They know that I don’t play any games and they know they can count on me.”

His adviser at Suffolk agreed.

“Doug is a goal-oriented, lifelong learner who demonstrated his commitment to the field early on by becoming a certified nursing assistant in 2008,” said nursing professor Myung-Hee Park. “He is an inspiration to his patients, peers and colleagues.”

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