Patrick Riel de Vera: the student

Patrick Riel de Vera, 22, of Seaside, thought he would have no problem fitting into the nursing program at Monterey Peninsula College (MPC). Two of his friends were already enrolled, and he figured they would be built-in mentors.

But by the time he got in, both of his friends had dropped out. They had joined a yearly exodus in which nearly half of all male nursing students, both at MPC and nationally, quit before completing their degree.

So when the nursing program launched a discussion group for men, de Vera eagerly joined, looking for anything that might help him avoid the fate of his friends.

"This really helps a lot, especially for first-year students," de Vera says. "Once we start discussing problems, we realize, ‘This is not happening just to me. It’s also happening to other guys.’"

When de Vera’s two friends dropped out, they cited their first clinical rotation in obstetrics as a big turnoff. The experience, on top of struggles they were having with attending school while holding down jobs, was enough to prompt both to quit the program.

"The OB rotation got to them," de Vera says. "They said they didn’t get enough support, that they couldn’t talk to anyone about what they were experiencing."

De Vera moved to Seaside from the Philippines four years ago when his father attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey. After he finished high school, he considered continuing his education in a life sciences field. An aunt who was a nurse suggested he give that career a try. Having two male friends who were already in the MPC program convinced him that nursing might be a smart move.

De Vera was in his first year of study at the Maurine Church Coburn School of Nursing when the men-in-nursing group began. He says the monthly sessions and interaction with other men in the program have proved to be a stabilizing influence.

De Vera has become so active in the group that he and another member went to Sacramento last year to talk about their experiences at a statewide conference on underrepresented populations in healthcare.

"After our presentation," de Vera says, "some of the guys in the audience said they wish there had been something like this 30 years ago."