Setting Down Roots in Georgia
James Fletcher Lawrence Jr. ’96, Ph.D., APRN, BC, FAANP, CPS, an adult/gerontological nurse practitioner and a graduate of the College’s Accelerated Second Degree B.S.N. program, was recently honored with the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners’ 2012 State Award for Excellence in Georgia. Lawrence is involved in almost all aspects of nursing; he is employed by the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Decatur, Georgia, in addition to working at Guardian Hospice. He is also an associate professor and owns his own consulting firm, Aging Successfully, LLC, which specializes in geriatrics. Lawrence recently took a few moments to chat with Outcomes about his professional career.
You lived in South Carolina. How did you choose Seton Hall University College of Nursing in New Jersey?
My family owned a nursing home and the nursing director was an alum of Seton Hall. She would tell us compelling stories about her experiences, and they really made me want to attend the College of Nursing.
You currently work with severely injured military personnel, including those living in chronic pain and those in hospice care – populations that are particularly vulnerable and possess unique challenges to their providers. Was there something in your personal life that made you feel strongly about working with these patients?
I always viewed myself as the underdog. I empathize with these underrepresented groups who aren’t among the most popular specialties in nursing. In America, we would never allow an individual to be overtly racist or sexist – yet ageism occurs all the time. It is very subtle and people aren’t even cognizant of it most of the time. Combating ageism by strengthening awareness of its presence is a huge priority for me. I have a strong faith, which was enhanced by the Seton Hall nursing faculty, and I believe that each of us can make a significant difference in the lives of others. [Seton Hall faculty] believed in me when I was drowning in doubt. They helped me develop self-confidence, even though I was not the smartest or most outgoing student. I learned to face failure, embrace it and learn from it, and my mantra is, “Every setback is a set up for a comeback!”
These lessons of survival as a nursing student and throughout my professional career have helped me look at my AIDS patients, my traumatic brain injury veterans, my cancer patients and my frail, dying elderly patients – and made me a better nurse and human being.
As a male in nursing, you are part of an under-represented group. The College of Nursing has made great strides to increase our male students; we even have the only American Assembly of Men in Nursing Chapter in New Jersey. Has your gender affected your nursing experiences?
Males in nursing face unique challenges — many people don’t know that nursing originated with men, 1,500 years before Florence Nightingale came on the scene. It doesn’t surprise me that Seton Hall’s College of Nursing is taking the lead in this uncharted area. Society often unconsciously inhibits our professional growth and can even damage our self-esteem with prejudice and stereotypes of male nurses. As a result, men in nursing often encounter three common obstacles: gender discrimination, resistant patients and constant questions about career choices.
Even today, with all of my education and experience, I still encounter these outdated assumptions about why I became a doctor of philosophy instead of a medical doctor. I try to use these real-life situations as teachable moments for my students, so that we can learn from them and forge ahead to an even playing field for men and women.
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