An RN Finds His Calling in the Ashes of September 11October 30, 2020
Becoming a nurse helped former TV engineer Vinnie Ioele heal after losing friends in the World Trade Center attacks.
We never know where life’s path may lead: Registered Nurse Vinnie Ioele is living proof of how much things can change.
For nearly 40 years, Ioele designed, installed and maintained television studios. But for the last three years he’s worked as a RN at Good Samaritan Medical Center in Suffern, NY, caring for patients in the hospital’s Post Anesthesia Care Unit.
“I was trained in electronics. I took care of all the electronics at WABC studios in New York City for 28 years,” he says. “Plus, I worked at a production company for 10 years taking care of video equipment. It’s really rewarding when you build things from scratch that way. It’s also very creative. If something breaks, you have to figure out how to fix it.”
“Nursing is very similar. We are engineers in spirit,” he adds. “First you have to figure out what’s wrong with people, and then you have to figure out how to help them.”
Ioele began his journey to nursing while still at ABC. The job required him to work at the World Trade Center every other Friday. September 11, 2001, happened on his day off.
“My mother called me crying. I knew my friends were up there. I watched my friends die. I knew all the elevator operators and engineers. It was horrible feeling so helpless,” he says. The disaster left him determined to never feel that way again, so Ioele began volunteering as an EMT in Saddlebrook, NJ. He loved it.
“We got 350 calls a year. Everyone that shows up in an ER, you get them first as an EMT,” he says.
“We answered every kind of call, from medical to psych. I learned techniques for dealing with every kind of trauma, from physical trauma to suicidal patients. I learned about empathy as well. That’s something you need to have as a good nurse.”
After more than 10 years as an EMT, he made the decision to start nursing classes at Bergen County Community College (BCCC). It took him six years to complete his Associate’s Degree, and during that time, he retired from his ABC job. Ioele was 55 when he graduated from BCCC.
“I was always the oldest person in the class, and that actually made it easier because I wasn’t thinking Indeed White has worked odd jobs, shifts and hours. She has answered call lights, conducted COVID-19 temperature screenings for anyone entering the hospital, and she has cleaned the emergency room. Her schedule has been both exhausting and unpredictable. On one occasion, when she was confused about her ever-changing work schedule—which could have led to her being ineligible for pandemic pay—she reached out to her union delegate for help to resolve the issue.
Being a member of 1199SEIU reaffirmed White’s belief that unions are indispensable. “I have worked in health care for 17 years,” explained White. “Throughout my career, I have been a part of a union because I know workers have more power when we unite and fight together for our rights.”
White is a member leader with 1199SEIU, the largest healthcare union in the United States. She and her co-workers have rallied together to demand that the hospitals where they work give them the personal protective equipment (PPE) they needed to safeguard themselves and their patients. White is also a member of the HCA bargaining team. She’s dismayed that HCA ended pandemic pay, which had helped her and many colleagues stay afloat. The company is also threatening layoffs despite making $581 million in profits in the first quarter of 2020.
The number of COVID-19 cases have spiked in Florida. White says this trend is evident at her facility where there has been an increase in the number of patients and staff testing positive. White believes PPE is being rationed because she’s only given one mask per day. It’s a very difficult situation, but White still finds the work she does incredibly rewarding. “I still get teary-eyed when I hold a patient’s hand to reassure them that they are going to be fine,” said White. “That adds to my paycheck.”
But White concludes that the challenges she and her co-workers have faced during this pandemic are another reminder of why it’s so important to vote: “We need to elect candidates who will hold hospitals accountable to providing workers the protection they need to ensure the safety of workers and the patients we care for every day.” about other things,” he says. “I just wanted to learn.”
He also loves the role of patient advocate, an aspect of the job complimented by his age, he says. “My gray hair is an asset,” he says. “People see it, and they know I have life experience.”
Though the road hasn’t been easy, Ioele wouldn’t change anything. “I absolutely loved nursing school, and I love being a nurse. It’s a job that is so challenging and so rewarding,” he says. “I have held dying patients’ hands and helped others get better.” “I thought I’d miss working in television, but I don’t,” he adds. “I get to say that I’m a nurse, and it’s so challenging. I am just so fulfilled.”