When Vincent, a third generation coal miner from the deep mines in Pennsylvania lost his job in 1989 after 18 years of work, little did he know what path his life would take.
Upon graduation from high school, Vincent attended Indiana University of Pennsylvania for one year only. He felt pulled to join his father and brother who were coal miners and earn a decent income. Eight years after working in the mines, his smarts and compassion for his fellow miners, landed him a job as a mine examiner. As an examiner, he made sure that the air was clean of poisonous gases and access was secure for the miners. For the next twelve years, Vincent worked alongside his family members and other older coal miners. In 1989, married with a small child, an owner of a house, and a diagnosis of black lung, Vincent was laid off from the Urling #3 mine in Kitanning, Pennsylvania.
Being laid off and worried about his future and his bills, Vincent spent time speaking with family members. His two sister-in-laws, one RN and one LPN, shared with him how much they loved being nurses and the benefits of having a good job that is always needed. Vincent was convinced to pursue a future in nursing. In speaking with the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA), he received the number 00001, the first coal miner in the US to qualify for their training grant!
From January 1989 to May of 1991, Vincent attended Mount Aloysius Associate Degree program supported by the UMWA and supplementing his income with night work at a grocery store. Graduation was a very happy occasion attended by his wife and mother.
His first job on a telemetry unit was a very emotionally trying experience. When he went home he continued to think about his patients. Several months into his job on the telemetry unit, Vincent received a phone call from a manager who was impressed with him while on his clinical rotation at the state hospital, and offered him a job. Feeling the emotional stress of the telemetry unit, Vincent accepted the job offer. Vincent liked his work at Torrance State Hospital, but working the evening shift started taking its toll on his family life. Working the evening shift took him back to his childhood days. His father worked the evening shift at the mine for years, and Vincent only saw his him during the weekends; Vincent wanted to be more available for his own children. The opportunity for Vincent came when he was offered a position at the Hollidaysburg Veterans’ Home close to Altoona, PA, finally working a day shift. That was his dream job that also provided security and benefits that he appreciated, and he spent 20 years caring for veterans.
Vincent loved his job and enjoyed his work, knowing that “I was doing good for the people I was caring for”. For fifteen years, he was passionate about the direct patient care and enjoyed the togetherness with his co-workers like family. As computer charting started taking the place of bedside conversations, Vincent felt that nursing was changing. Over his twenty years at the VA home, the ratio of nurses to patients has gradually increased. More care needed to be delivered with less nurses, discoloring the allure of the profession and showing the reality of the business side of healthcare.
After a fulfilling career, Vincent is now retired. Making a difference in people’s lives, whether monitoring air quality in the coal mines or monitoring vital signs, was Vincent’s mission. Mission accomplished!