People: A quarter-century in health care for Linda Coffman

August 30, 2004|EMILY BURTON

Twenty-five years ago, Linda Coffman became a certified nurse's assistant out of necessity. She was a single parent laid off from a sewing factory, and her mother, who worked at Danville Centre for Health and Rehabilitation, helped her in the door with little experience. Now she is celebrating a quarter of a century in the field.

"When I started to do it, I had a family to raise. I was a single parent," she said. "That just encouraged me to keep going."

But she stayed there for different reasons.

"I love nursing; I like this type of work," Coffman said. You get involved in patients' lives while caring for them, she adds, like you're tending for family. "You get close to them; there's a closeness there."

Coffman and her co-workers tend about 25 residents during second shift, bathing, clothing and seeing to their varying personal needs.

"She cares a lot about the residents. She gives very good care to them," Pat Smith, assistant director of nursing, said. "She's our first defense, knowing all the residents," the eyes and ears of the facility, first to recognize a change in health, Smith explained. The residents, quite simply, "depend on her."


The patients are like an extended family for Coffman, whose own parents are no longer living.

"We're really not supposed to get attached to certain (individuals), but that's hard not to do," Coffman explained. "I guess I deal with them passing away, because I'm a Christian, and I know they're going to a better place ... If I know they're not getting better, it's a stressful release to see them go."

It is because of these daily difficulties that Coffman's long career deserves notice, said co-worker Diana Ray, a licensed practical nurse.

"It takes a special person to go in this that long," Ray said. "She's an excellent worker, her disposition is very caring ... Just an all-out good person."

Ray added, "To do 25 years in the same health care position, it's amazing. It takes a dedicated person."

Dedication to her children led her to try a new job years ago, said Coffman, and now dedication to the work keeps her there.

"I like to stay on a job, not go back and forth, back and forth," Coffman said. "It makes me feel good to be able to do something for someone who can't do it for themself."

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