MISHAWAKA — Two or three decades ago, nursing was a popular career choice for women. In time, it became a female-dominated field. These days, however, the number of men in the profession is increasing. Wayne Dockery has been a nurse at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center for about 17 years. He works in the surgical intensive care unit. Some patients are surprised when they meet him. “A lot of them think I’m a doctor when I walk in the room, because I’m a male. Then I have to tell them, ‘No, I’m your nurse for the day,’” Dockery said. In the last ten years, St. Joseph Regional Medical Center has seen more men make nursing a career. “The true component of being a nurse, “ explained Marsha King, system chief nursing officer, “is caring about patients and caring about treating people with dignity and respect, and be able to have that hands on approach, so it really doesn't matter if you're male or female.” Patients do not seem to think the gender of a nurse matters either. “It's nice to see they [male nurses] can be just as attentive as the female nurses,” said Jill Molen, the wife of one of Dockery’s patients. “Sometimes, when it’s a male patient, it’s kind of nice to have another male taking care of them. It can be a little more comfortable,” she added. Some male nurses, like Dockery, have chosen nursing as a second career later in life. Perhaps their first career was not fulfilling, or they may have lost their job. Dockery worked in a warehouse for 15 years, and started nursing school when the plant closed. “My day [at the warehouse] was routine. I did the same thing day in and day out. Here it's a different challenge every day,” said Dockery. He finds his current job rewarding. “When I go home at night, I have a good feeling knowing I helped someone out, and the decision I made had a positive impact on their life.” A growing trend is young men studying nursing. Five years ago, men in IUSB's School of Nursing accounted for about 8 percent of the students. Today, about 15 percent of the nursing students there are men. Marta Makielski, IUSB undergraduate nursing program director, said there are a number of reasons men choose the nursing field. “A lot of men really work well with people. Sometimes they're attracted to the technology that's available. And, of course, the job opportunities are endless,” she said. Additionally, nurses often work flexible hours, and the position pays well. King said the starting wage for a nurse in the Midwest is $20 to $23 an hour. She said nurses also have the ability to continue their education while on the job. “Nursing is such a dynamic career. It is a great opportunity for men, and they’re recognizing that,” King said. She said male nurses are welcome at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center, and bring a different dimension to the dynamics of a nursing unit. Michael Carroll is one of the men in IUSB’s nursing program. “I like working with people and I like helping people,” he said. Carroll said he knows some still hold stereotypes, but he thinks fewer people see nursing as a female-only career. He looks forward to his future job. “I don't see myself as a male nurse, I just see myself as a nurse,” Carroll said. Healthcare workers hope everyone will begin to see things that way.