Health

Male nurse living his dream

  • Waleed Lightbourne in the simulation lab at Bermuda College (Photograph by Lisa Simpson)
  • Waleed Lightbourne in the simulation lab at Bermuda College (Photograph by Lisa Simpson)

Waleed Lightbourne always wanted to be a nurse.

His mother worked as a nurses’ aide for more than four decades and the love and care she showed her patients inspired him.

As the first male graduate of the Bermuda College’s Associate Degree in Nursing programme to pass the Nclex exam, the 35-year-old is realising his dream.

“I was floored, absolutely floored,” he said of passing the standardised exam that every nurse schooled in Canada and the US has to pass to become registered and practice. “I got chills — I still get them now.”

He sat the exam in July through the New York State Education Department and found out he had passed six weeks later.

“You think you know it all but you don’t,” he said. “You just continue to study and master your skills.

“I thought I had failed. But they said once you have a difficult test, you are actually in the right area.”

Mr Lightbourne said the exam tailors itself to the person taking it and the questions became more difficult “as you go along and pass them”.

“Once you get a question wrong, it decreases in difficulty. Everything culminated that you have learnt at nursing school and it comes at all different angles.

The questions cover all aspects of nursing and Mr Lightbourne said: “You can pass the exam in 75 questions or in 265 questions.”

Mr Lightbourne passed at 83 questions, an achievement that he said was a testament to the college’s nursing programme.

He is now filling out the paperwork to start a one-year nurse residency programme at King Edward VII Memorial Hospital.

This year will see him rotate throughout the hospital under the guidance of a mentor before choosing the area he wants to specialise in.

The Devonshire resident is no stranger to the hospital, as he already works as a nurses’ aide on the Continuing Care Unit.

“I actually work on my mama’s unit,” he said. “I got her job. When she retired, they hired me.”

It came at the right time as he had lost his job working security at the hospital but saw the opening for nurses’ aides that same night.

He had wanted to be a registered nurse for much longer.

“My mother worked in healthcare as a nurse’s aide on the Continuing Care Unit for 40-plus years,” he said.

“Watching the love and care that she had provided for her patients rubbed off on me because I didn’t really have a father figure around.”

Mr Lightbourne was also a senior medic in the Regiment. But he had not been able to go overseas to study.

He said it was “luck of the draw” when the college nursing programme started and he was in the first cohort in 2011.

“One of the things you learn quite fast is time management; you have to study.”

He worked throughout the four-year course and would always have a book to read while working security at KEMH or the Mid-Atlantic Wellness Institute.

Seeing him in his uniform, some found it hard to grasp that he wanted to be a nurse.

But he said: “I just had the dream, stuck with it and passed.

“For a nurse, you are the closest thing to a doctor. You ease the burden of the condition and you actually take it on for them.”

He said being a nurse is also about going “the extra mile”, something he saw his mother do often.

“I look at myself as being professional but also being a butler to my patients, I want my patient’s to be treated the way I want to be treated.

“You develop a relationship with that person that is usually unforgettable.

“You help teach the family, you ease the patient’s anxiety and bring it all together as one. It’s a beautiful thing.”

Through his security work at MWI, Mr Lightbourne said he is also interested in mental health — an area he said is not just lacking males but also Bermudians.

He said a lot of people are put off by the stigma that surrounds mental illness and will only see the side where a person is unwell and they don’t know how to cope with that.

“That creates stigma. Unless they are not taking their medication, they are angels. You wouldn’t be able to tell they have a mental health issue once they are stable.”

And although he said being a male nurse can be “challenging”, he would encourage more men to consider it.

“You are definitely a minority, it’s a woman’s world. Most males are encouraged to become doctors.

“But being professional, you adapt to it. It is fulfilling and it has rewards beyond your imagination.”

Kathy-Ann Swan, director of nursing education at the College, congratulated Mr Lightbourne and described him as an “excellent role model”.

She explained that a total of ten students who graduated from the programme had now sat the exam. But she also encouraged more men to sign up.