They're men, and they're minorities in the nursing profession. But they're more welcome than a date to the senior prom.

"Men are stillin the minority," said Addie Eckardt, president of the Maryland Nurses Association. "We are trying to attract men into the profession because there a lot of opportunities. There's also a shortage of nurses."

Men have always been a minority -- actually, almost non-existent -- in the practical nursing program at Carroll County Career and Technology Center, too.

But this year, there are three men enrolled inthe year-long program, which began with a six-week session earlier this summer.

"I don't think we've ever had three men at one time," said Judy Babylon, the program coordinator and an instructor. "Occasionally, we've had one."

Women haven't batted an eye about having men as classmates, she said. Nor has the minority status given the menany pause.

"It's more accepted now than it ever was before," saidCharles Dorsey, 44 and a graphics free-lancer. "Men can be in a caring profession and not be looked down upon. It never used to be that way."

Dorsey, the father of a 5-year-old daughter, is seeking a career change. He said he has always been interested in the health-care field and finally decided to pursue his dream.

"I've had a lot of previous experience in the medical field," said the Mount Airy resident and former nursing assistant. "I thought it was time to come out and attempt to get my license and get on with what I've always wanted to do."

John Seets Sr., a 44-year-old Hampstead resident who has been in law enforcement for 25 years, said he joined the program afterbeing a security officer at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore.

"Once I left there, I found that I missed the atmosphere," said Seets,the father of three teen-age boys. "It's definitely a minority field. But it's also a very lucrative field. There's places to go."

Because of the nursing shortage, most people entering the profession cancall their own shots on hours and wages, Eckhardt said.

She said men have become increasingly attracted to the field because of the relative job security and the variety of duties associated with nursing.

Sixteen-year-old David Taylor admits he's taken some ribbing from his buddies because of his decision to enroll in the program.

"I've been kidded by other guys," the Westminster High School senior said. "But I see this as the beginning step for me. I want to be a physician's assistant or even a doctor someday."

"Whether we're men orwomen, secondary or post-secondary students, we're all treated equally," Dorsey said. "I think we're all here to work hard."

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