Doctor Leaves Medical Practice to Fulfill Dream of Becoming a Nurse

Appeared in: Nurse Together

By: Elizabeth Valente

While many people aspire to be doctors, Yoshiya Yamada, a former doctor in Japan, always had inspirations to become a nurse.  On Friday, May 28, that dream became a reality as he joined 94 of his fellow nursing classmates at the Samuel Merritt University (SMU) Commencement ceremony at the Paramount Theater in Oakland, California.

Yamada had been practicing medicine for nearly 20 years in Tokyo.  For fifteen years he examined and treated patients by performing gastrointestinal endoscopy procedures.  "My work was to find the small cancer by colonoscopy and remove those regions by endoscopic procedures," said Yamada.

Ever since he was a child, Yamada knew he wanted to help people.  When it was time for him to decide on a university, Yamada was disappointed that he could not find an organized nursing school or program for males.  "I wanted to become a nurse in Japan, but this profession was mostly encouraged for females to enter, not men, so I became a doctor instead."

Fusae Abbott, DNSc, RN, Professor and Director of the SMU Case Management program and a Japanese native, is not surprised to hear that Yamada had a difficult time pursuing his dream to become a nurse.  "In Japan, there are few programs that have opened their doors to those who want to change careers to become a nurse.  Especially in this case, where a doctor wants to become a nurse, it might be almost impossible to find a school which would accept Yamada." 

That is why Yamada decided to move to the United States in pursuit of his dream of becoming a nurse.  He applied to Samuel Merritt University in September 2007 as a 'special status student,' working on his prerequisites to enter the nursing Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program.  By May 26, 2009, Yamada was eligible to enter the University's Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program.  The 12-month accelerated program is designed for someone who already has a baccalaureate in a non-nursing field.

"This was an intense course," laughed Yamada.  "I studied more here than at medical school."

But the intense school work, coupled with ESL studies, did not deter Yamada from fulfilling a desire he's had since he started working in the healthcare profession.  "As a doctor my workload was to diagnose, remove, and treat the cancer and move on to the next patient.  I see the nursing field as being interactive, social and more involved in the medical field than doctor," said Yamada.

"He worked incredibly hard in his classes and in the hospital," said Joan Bard, DEd, RN, and Associate Professor in the School of Nursing (SoN).  "He has overcome barriers that we can only imagine to complete his education at SMU."

His preceptor, Regina Foronda, RN, described Yamada as a fast learner who quickly developed the critical thinking skills he needed to be a nurse.  "I am excited to welcome Yoshi as a nurse as he has the passion and compassion that so many of us forget about," said Fornonda.  "He is going to be a great asset to the nursing community."          

In Japan, Yamada worked with cancer and HIV patients.  Dr. Abbott agrees his new role as a nurse is a perfect fit for him.  "He has such a strong desire to participate in caring for patients.  I know he will enjoy nursing and the whole circle of healthcare services."

Nearly 7 percent of the more than 2.1 million RNs working in the U.S. are men, according to the 2008 National Nursing Sample Survey.  A small increase from 5.8 percent in 2004.  Nationally, female nurses outnumber men by more than 15 to one.  Since the 1970's, Samuel Merritt University has graduated more than 330 male students.  In the past five months, the University has graduated more than 230 nursing students (male and female) from the School of Nursing.


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