By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Helping others one on one has always been part of 31-year-old Dean Viggiano’s professional career.
Before becoming a nurse, he operated Tutoring Up-Grades in Poughkeepsie.
During the pandemic’s quarantine period, he had time to consider other careers that would allow him to help people. Someone he met through his tutoring service who was studying to be a nurse “opened my eyes to the world of hospital nursing and the huge, diverse array of options nurses have,” Viggiano said. “It excited me.”
He applied to many schools and decided to go to the University of Rochester. He found that going back to school as an adult for a second bachelor’s degree was “a big shock” but his level of maturity and knowledge of how to study helped.
“It’s not easy getting that nursing degree,” he said. “It’s not easy material. Having all of those clinical hours and being able to slowly transition to my role as a student to a nurse was helpful.”
It was also helpful that his first degree was in biology, which he earned in 2015 at the University at Albany. Those credits transferred, so that helped accelerate his academic path.
Viggiano completed his bachelor’s degree in December 2022 and currently works as a registered nurse at Golisano Children’s Hospital.
Viggiano feels well-prepared by his program and its clinical hours. Part of his schooling included simulation experiences, where nurse practitioners functioned as providers and actors portrayed family members.
“We had sophisticated models for our patients,” Viggiano said. “We got to role play in those experiences in a safe space. They prepared us well in clinicals for the day-to-day. Even though a one-year accelerated program, we had 150 clinical hours. We had a good look as to this is what their day looks like.”
These exercises also helped him better realize the team effort necessary in healthcare, and the vital role of communication in providing quality care.
Once on the job in the real world, what surprised him the most was the level of connection he builds with patients and their families.
“It’s very powerful and fulfilling,” he said.
Although historically nursing has been a female-dominated field, Viggiano’s nursing class was nearly 30% men, he said. He attributes this shift to more men realizing what a fulfilling position nursing can be.
“There’s demand there as well, like a professor of nursing, nurse educators or educator on a unit,” he said. “Others are seeing this as well. For me, this is something I’d be interested in, possibly becoming a nurse practitioner or earning a Doctor of Nursing Practice. I’m a lifelong learner. The opportunity to continue is one of the great benefits to me.”
The rigors of a 12-hour shift and serving patients with diverse needs challenges nurses may feel overwhelming at a times. “Nurses have to learn to delegate to other team members and make sure that as a nurse, you’re the center of the wheel and you’re connecting all the team members who are working on a patient’s care, like those in dietary, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and pharmacy. You have to advocate for your patients.”
Despite these struggles, “I’ve really enjoyed it,” he said about his new career. “It’s an extremely fulfilling and rewarding change working with these patients and families and being able to help them.”
He and his wife Rachel have also enjoyed living in Rochester near the Erie Canal Trail and other hiking areas, but also likes the easy access to restaurants and entertainment.