Marshall Ciccarone lived in the southern New Jersey area for a long time. Ciccarone worked in landscaping, but grew tired of being laid off every year when winter arrived.

Ciccarone, of Dennisville, stabilized his professional and personal life by entering the nursing field.

"Nursing is always in demand. I'm good with people. I'm helping people on a day-to-day basis. It's interesting," said Ciccarone, 37, who earned his associate's degree and started working in July 2012 as a registered nurse at Cape Regional Medical Center in Cape May Court House. "Male nurses are on the rise, but it's still a female-dominated profession."

There were 3.5 million employed nurses in 2011, about 3.2 million of whom were female and 330,000 male, according to a report released by the U.S. Census Bureau last year.

Men's representation among registered nurses and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses is increasing. About 2.7 percent of registered nurses were men in 1970 compared with 9.6 percent in 2011. Men's representation among licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses grew from 3.9 percent in 1970 to 8.1 percent in 2011. In 2011, 9 percent of all nurses were men, while 91 percent were women. Men in nursing earned, on average, $60,700 per year, while women nurses earned $51,100 per year, the Census Bureau said.

Ralph "Rocky" Ricapito, a registered nurse and clinical director for Medical and Surgical Services at AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center's Mainland Campus in Galloway Township, has helped people throughout his life. Ricapito was stationed with the Coast Guard and was involved in search and rescue operations. Ricapito worked as a nurses' aide, and his cousin and her husband are both nurses.

"Nursing is growing. Ten years ago, you didn't see it, but it is shifting from the hospital into the community. You're seeing nurses in everything," said Ricapito, 41, of Galloway Township.

Ricapito earned his associate's degree in applied science in nursing in 1998 and a bachelor's degree in nursing in 2012. Ricapito wants to earn a master's degree in business, but stay in the nursing field. Ricapito still remembers his early days working as a nurse.

"It was interesting. I started in the Atlantic City hospital. It was intimidating at first until you start to truly do hands-on clinical work," Ricapito said.

Working in the nursing field, Ricapito met his wife, a fellow nurse. Ricapito has held several different roles and positions with AtlantiCare. From 1999 to 2002, he traveled all over the country working at different hospitals.

"In North Carolina, families stayed with patients round the clock. It was a very different culture. I thought it was pretty neat. It was new to me. I learned about more inclusion," Ricapito said.

The shortage of nurses, and specifically male nurses, played a role in Ariel Echevarria entering the profession. The Vineland resident always liked science growing up and graduated from Buena Regional High School in 1998. Many of his friends entered the nursing field. Echevarria and one of his co-workers at the Red Lobster in Delran, Burlington County, always talked about the steps needed to enter the nursing profession. Echevarria attended Cumberland County College and earned an associate's degree in applied science/nursing.

Echevarria, who is a bilingual nurse, started working as a nurse in 2004 and later earned his bachelor's degree in the field.

Male nurses tend to gravitate towards the more technologically based operations at a hospital. These include the intensive care, trauma and neurological units, the critical care area, anesthetist, cardiac intervention, flight nurses and mobile transport, Echevarria said. Echevarria is an assistant nurse manager in the medical ICU/stepdown unit at the Inspira Health Network in Vineland.

"I wanted to be in leadership and looked to get into it. There is an ability to grow. Nursing is very dynamic. You don't have to be stuck in a certain specialty. There are different avenues," said Echevarria, 34. "Throughout the 20th century, nursing was feminized. Today, society sees male nurses differently as leaders and innovators."

Echevarria said it was most memorable when he was finally able to practice on his own. But not all memories are good ones. The first time you lose a patient really stays with you, he said.

Fred Honecker was in sales with a timber company when he was laid off in the early 1990s. Honecker, who was in his early 40s at the time, liked the security of the nursing profession. His friend was a nurse, and the job sounded attractive, Honecker said.

"I had a friend who worked as an RN and volunteered as an EMT. She influenced me," said Honecker, who also volunteered as an EMT while working for the timber company.

Honecker, of Waretown, worked full-time as a driver for an ambulance company while earning his associate's degree in nursing at Ocean County College. He remembers there being five men in his graduating class of 35 nursing students.

After starting as an oncology nurse, Honecker switched to the telemetry unit, which is for heart monitoring. Honecker, 59, is employed at Southern Ocean Medical Center in the Manahawkin section of Stafford Township.

"This is a very cyclical business. If you are young, 22 or 23, it is a fantastic career," said Honecker, who has been working as a nurse for the past 16 years. "I think there will be more opportunities for males or females. I would definitely encourage people to think about healthcare and the nursing field."

Most of the men said they never experienced a problem being a male nurse instead of a female nurse, but Ciccarone said two times female patients were reluctant to use the bathroom or have him help with a sensitive matter. Ricapito said nurses have to make sure they are respecting a patient's privacy and their boundaries. They also should answer any questions the patients might have and keep them comfortable, Ricapito said.

"Male or female, work is work. The expectation is the same once you put the uniform on," Ricapito said. "It's been very rewarding, but it can be tough sometimes."

Contact Vincent Jackson:

609-272-7202609-272-7202