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Gender gap closing in allied health, nursing professions

Averi Beddingfield is focused on becoming a respiratory therapist at a bustling hospital.

And if being the only male in his Allied Health II class at Clinton High’s Career Complex is his route to getting there, then so be it.

“I have a passion to work in the allied health field, so it really doesn’t bother me,” he said of sitting in a circle with eight girls Monday as teacher Lora Little led them through a tooth identification exercise.

“I know why I’m here. It’s not about equality for the sexes,” he says.

The school’s Allied Health II program has eight females and one male - Beddingfield. The Health Sciences I classes enroll a total 42 students, nine of them males.

That’s less than 25 percent of one gender, meaning males are classified by federal standards as “non-traditional” in those Career Complex programs.

That’s changing, and quickly, say Career Complex student services coordinator Cindy Ables and Lora Little, a Career Complex Allied Health and Health Science instructor.

“I wouldn’t say that males in health careers are non-traditional. Men are in demand,” Little said. “That is a changing trend, if it’s even still a trend.”

Says Ables: “In the three years I’ve been here, I’ve seen many more male students taking Allied Health. I see that soon not being a non-traditional class for males to take.”

Although she does not have firm statistics, “I’ve been working with nurses for more than 20 years, and I’ve seen the trend of more and more men are going into the nursing field, and more becoming nurse practitioners,” said Betty Dickson, interim executive director of the Madison-based Mississippi Nurses Association. “They make great nurses, and you can make a great living.”

For Beddingfield, it’s not a matter of gender but a passion to help.

“My mom died from a blood clot. My family has a history of smoking,” he said. “I have a desire to deal with the upper respiratory part of the body.”

He said Little helps him feel comfortable in a class full of girls.

“I do stand out,” he said. “But even though I’m with a bunch of females, we’re all family. Most of the time, it’s me giving them a hard time, not them giving me a hard time.”

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