Discussing the reasons he became a nurse, Howard Rogovitz, 55, jokes that "my mother always wanted me to marry a doctor."
After graduating from Overbrook High School, the Thomas Jefferson University Hospital nurse said he was "in and out of colleges, and looking for a way to have a stable career. I decided that as a nurse, I would always have a job. Also, it's a nice feeling to help people, even if that sometimes get clichéd."
Rogovitz earned his R.N. status from Frankford Hospital in 1976, working first in the Cardiac Unit of the Medical College of Pennsylvania. His career path has also included being a nursing-home administrator. In his current position, which he started in 2000 at Jefferson Hospital, he serves as a nurse manager, running the day-to-day business of the recovery room at Jefferson and its day surgery unit.
"The best part of nursing is dealing with patients," said Rogovitz. "I love to just sit and talk with them: The patients relax, and I get to know them. We both get something out of it."
While Rogovitz was Bar Mitzvahed – as were his sons, Eric, 21, and Brian, 25 – he said he is not an observant Jew. "However, there are times when you can feel that you're doing a mitzvah when you're helping someone who's really sick. It's difficult to put into words. It's part of the Jewish tradition to help others. That's always there for me."
As for being a male nurse, Rogovitz doesn't particularly cotton to the term.
"When I first went to nursing school, there weren't that many men in the field," he explained. "I have to admit that I did feel some prejudice from a woman instructor when I was in school. She seemed to dislike male students. There also used to be a belief that male nurses only take care of men.
"But for the most part, I really haven't felt any prejudice from patients or nurses in what is still a female-dominated area. I tend to work around the issue. When I'm helping elderly women, I respect their privacy, and there's always enough female staff around to help.
"In general, there's no difference," he continued. "Men in nursing have no particular advantages or disadvantages."
One of Rogovitz's most emotional experiences as a nurse was when a 17-year-old killed himself with a gunshot to the head – and was declared brain dead. His family wanted to contribute his organs.
"I had never witnessed surgery when the organs are harvested," said this nurse. "It was hard to imagine that what was going on was real. What in the world could be so bad that he would want to take his own life? Then I heard that the organs were being given to four different people, and I was left with the feeling of how so much good had come out of a tragedy."
"One of the day-to-day challenges of being a nurse is that there are times when it's difficult to leave the job behind me when I leave work, especially when I'm dealing with the intensive-care unit," Rogovitz continued.
He does see a bright future for nursing (he and his wife, Cindy, actually met in nursing school): "More and more people will be needing hospitals. I don't see this shortage going away so soon. Insurance companies and hospitals have limited resources."
Rogovitz said he encourages young people to go into nursing. "Once you're a nurse, you're always a nurse. An individual can go into administration, cardiac care, or labor and delivery. There are 100 different ways to go, and starting salaries are better than many position for grads with a B.S. and just out of school.
"I tell them that it's a profession that will last a lifetime."