It’s Cool to be a Nurse, Bro!

Trace Slancik, Austin Kane, Nick Bazany, and Blair McCormick pose for a portrait in a hospital room.
Nursing students and athletes, left to right, Trace Slancik, Austin Kane, Nick Bazany, and Blair McCormick. Not pictured: Logan Shadaia

A profound brotherhood has formed amongst five senior men graduating from the Hope nursing program this May. Not only have they supported each other in mastering the balance of being student-athletes on five different athletic teams, they’ve also embraced a future in a female-dominated field.

Nick Bazany, Austin Kane, Blair McCormick, Trace Slancik and Logan
have championed being in the nursing minority, knowing they
have the potential to bring a new perspective and experience for patients and co-workers alike. 

“Having the support of these guys around you, guys who understand what you’re going through, is a really big thing for all of us,” McCormick, the men’s soccer goalkeeper from Wadsworth, Illinois, said. “When times are stressful, it’s good to have guys around you to talk about these personal experiences and remind you why you want to be a nurse in the first place.” 

After they pass their National Council Licensure Exam this summer, the five will join the 11.4 percent of nurses in America who are male, according to 2018 United States Bureau of Labor statistics. They’re used to that kind of stat. They make up five of the 12 declared male nursing majors at Hope College, with 139 total students in the program.

Nick Bazanky plays long-stick defender on the lacrosse team.
Nick Bazanky plays long-stick defender.

Bazany, a men’s lacrosse defender from Howell, Michigan, praises the support and encouragement they have all received along the way, from Hope College professors to practitioners in the field. 

“Everyone just accepts the fact that we’re all doing the same thing they are and being guys doesn’t make that any different. We have the same goals for our patients and want to do the same things for everybody,” Bazany said. “After a while, you don’t forget you’re a guy, but you just kind of stop noticing that as a defining difference.”

Each of the men looks back to the hard moments in their lives when a nurse, or team of nurses, went the extra mile to make the best of a bad
situation as their reasons for going into the field. They want to provide that same comfort and assurance for someone else. 

Blair McCormick defends in the soccer goal.
Blair McCormick in goal.

For McCormick, it was the nurses, and one male nurse in particular, who cared for his grandma when she became ill. McCormick was in awe as he watched the male nurse care for her, and realized how well he was able to get to know her and make her comfortable in a short amount of time, and in such a tough situation. 

It was similar for Bazany, whose mom was diagnosed with breast cancer during his freshman year of college. He gives all the credit to the nurses who cared for her during her hospital stay and recovery period.

Kane first realized he wanted to help people when a close friend died from suicide during his sophomore year in high school.

“It was hard for me, but it also drove me to realize that I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and have them not feel that pain,” said Kane, the ice hockey goalie from Flint, Michigan.

Austin Kane makes a save in hockey goal.
Austin Kane makes a save.

The sentiment resonated two years later when he watched the nursing team make the end of his cousin’s life as comfortable as possible. It was seeing nurses provide individualized care and help one person at a time that solidified Kane’s career path.

Slancik, a catcher for Hope baseball from Scotts, Michigan, was also drawn to nursing when he realized that nurses get a bit more face-to-face patient interaction than doctors in a lot of cases. They are able to build relationships with not only the patients, but their families too, which he likes.

Becoming stand-out nurses comes down to relationship-building for the group. That, and the ability to communicate with people in situations that aren’t necessarily the most comfortable. As Bazany explains,  “You have to be able to advocate for any patient at any moment in time.”

“It’s also about passion,” Kane said. “A passionate nurse is what makes a good nurse, because in general, passion is what fuels them to take care of their patients in the best manner possible… Without passion, how can you really be good at something?”

Logan Shadaia poses for a portrait.
Logan Shadaia

It’s that same attitude that also enables them be successful student athletes — the push to be the best and leaders in what they do. The level of selfless leadership speaks for itself as four of the men lead their respective teams as captains.  Shadaia, a fifth-year senior from Oakland, Michigan, helped to guide the football team as a student-assistant coach in the fall of 2019.

“The biggest perk of being a nursing student-athlete is that you gain two families,” Shadaia says.” I am a part of a family with football and nursing. They both provide a great support system.”

Dr. Donna Garrett, chairperson of the Department of Nursing, finds that student-athletes in the nursing program are often the best at time management and advocating for themselves. That fact holds true for all Hope student-athletes in the nursing program, whether they’re men or women, Garrett emphasized. Twenty percent of Hope nursing majors are on varsity athletic teams. 

Logan Shadaia blocks at the H-back position on the football field.
Logan Shadaia blocks at the H-back position.

“They’re top athletes as well,” said Garrett, referring to the majority of nursing majors who are student-athletes. “If they’re going to be successful academically, they are also going to be the student-athlete who is successful in their sport, too. It just seems to be a personality trait, where they’re willing to put in the work and sacrifice to do both aspects well.” 

The department works diligently with athletics to ensure that students can fully participate and be successful in both realms. The priority is for student-athletes to be present for all their games. Then it comes down to working one-on-one with the student-athletes and coaches to make sure that they can balance practice times, clinicals and everything else in-between. 

It’s an advantage that Garrett and the five men realize happens with regularity at a place like Hope. The support and flexibility provided by their professors and coaches has been second to none. However, it still comes down to personal accountability where, as McCormick explains, they sacrifice the little things because it becomes about big-picture life views. 

Trace Slancik offers congrats after a baseball.
Trace Slancik offers congrats after a win.

“You go into it to do what you love and to ultimately help people,” Slancik echoed. “You’re really living a selfless lifestyle, and that makes it all worth it in the end.”

Garrett agrees that men are an underrepresented group in nursing, but more are slowly going into the field, creating good role models for this group of men — a group that she calls “fun” and “kind-hearted,” always stepping out and going the extra mile for anyone with whom they cross paths.

Post-graduation, Bazany, Kane, Slancik and Shadaia hope to spend time in an intensive care unit of a hospital. They also plan to attend grad school to become nurse anesthetists. McCormick plans to attend grad school to become a family nurse practitioner and focus on preventative care.

Until then, their focus will continue to be on conquering their academics and their opponents. 

Feature photography by Steven Herppich; Action photographs by Steven Herppich and Lynne Powe ’86

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