By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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He went straight into the Forks Long Term Care unit, where his daughter Vicky Goakey works. She saw him along with other family members and wondered what they were up to.
“We’re just getting coffee,” was the not altogether truthful story.
In fact, the family was there for a surprise party in honor of Goakey’s 40 years of nursing at the Long Term Care home.
And Goakey, who began here as a 22-year-old graduate of Peninsula College’s nursing program, was well-surprised. She’s not the type to want the spotlight. But Goakey is grateful for these four decades of work, learning and caring.
Vicky Duncan Goakey was born and raised in Forks, the granddaughter of Perry “P.W.” Duncan, who settled here in 1922. A formidable cedar tree in the Nolan Creek area is named in honor of Goakey’s father Ed and her late uncle Wiley Duncan, and Forks’ youth baseball field is named for her mother, the late Virginia Duncan.
Ed Duncan doesn’t care to spend time talking about these honors, though. Like his daughter, he’s not looking for attention. “She comes by that naturally,” Duncan said.
But he is full of admiration for his daughter, and for her devotion to her patients at Forks Long Term Care.
“She really . . . I don’t know how to say it,” other than “she really cares about the people there,” said Duncan.
When asked what inspires her about this work, Goakey doesn’t hesitate.
“The joy of my job these days,” she said, “is giving quality of life to the residents, for what years they have left.
“You get a smile in different ways. They may not say thank you. But there might be a twinkle in their eye. That lets you know you’ve made a difference.”
Goakey also knows that besides being patient with residents, a nurse must be patient with her- or himself. “If you don’t know something, say so. Be willing to learn. There’s so much I still don’t know.
“You learn from the people you care for,” she added. Of course Goakey has taken classes on dementia and gone to conferences and trainings. Yet her residents, she said, are her teachers as well.
“We have a mixed milieu of residents with different disabilities,” said Goakey. “They may not know it, but they help you learn how to take care of them.”
Now a manager at Forks Long Term Care, Goakey contends with another major part of the job: paperwork. The unit is relatively small with 20 beds, but the red tape can get onerous.
The long-term care industry is highly regulated, with state reviews every year. Goakey is proud to say that her place has received high ratings over the years from the federal Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare site gives it a “much above average” rating in the staffing, health inspections and overall categories.
Goakey’s title is “coordinator,” which is “shorthand for ‘everything,’” added Karen Keller, director of the Long Term Care unit since 1994.
“The thing of it is: She’s so faithful,” Keller added. Goakey has been steadfast through the hospital’s, and her own, hard times. She has raised her family, lost loved ones — and yet she is not one to call in sick.
“To her, it’s a calling,” said Keller. “She believes in what we’re doing. Sometimes, our role is to help them have a peaceful death. She understands how the family feels.”
Goakey also has spearheaded the Long Term Care float in Forks’ Fourth of July parade and participated in the Relay for Life.
But Keller’s not finished yet.
Goakey “goes to the gym five nights a week. She is a woman on fire . . . after 40 years.”
This summer and fall, Goakey is looking forward to working with two new nurses, both of whom come from the Peninsula College program.
“I appreciate [them] because they bring new ways of doing something; they have fresh education,” she said, “and I can share something with them.”
As Goakey and her husband Ed brought up two sons, Josh and Jason, she had “a very supportive family. My husband has always been supportive of my job,” she said.
“I wanted a family . . . and I wanted to continue in my profession,” so she chose not to take time off when her boys were little.
Instead, she reduced her hours, believing it would be “easier to stay [in the work force] rather than go away and try to come back.”
This meant Goakey also had to learn the fine balance of nursing and caring for her family.
“You have to learn to say no to your job,” she said.
Her sons are in their mid-30s now, and “I don’t think they were harmed too badly,” their mom joked.
At 62, Goakey isn’t looking for the exit. Rather than retirement, she thinks about what this work has given her.
“It’s taught me to appreciate life,” she said. “It’s taught me patience, and how to communicate better.
“I don’t accept change very well,” she added. But this work “has taught me about accepting change without getting upset about it.”
Forks Long Term Care is “small, but we’re proud of it,” said Goakey.
“I’ve found my niche.”