Sixteen-year-old Marcy Dukette made her way from Northfield School to her health occupations coop as a nurse’s aide, walking between her classes and Mayo’s residential care community.
The year was 1974 and, as the world watched the unfolding Watergate scandal, Dukette embarked on a 48-year career with Mayo Healthcare. “I’ve always called Mayo my second family because I’ve been there since high school,” she noted. Marcy Dukette retired on March 25.
“I’m excited to retire, but it’s bittersweet,” Dukette said. Caring for patients at Mayo Healthcare in Northfield has been her life’s calling for nearly five decades. Over time, her career evolved from nurse’s aide to Licensed Nursing Assistant (LNA). Dukette worked in physical therapy, became a Licensed Manager for Residential Care, and eventually returned to being an LNA because she wanted to work more directly with the residents.
Mayo administrator Danielle Nickerson will miss Dukette, who has been a foundational part of Mayo Healthcare for decades. “We will miss her smile, positive attitude, and willingness to go above and beyond to help our residents and their families. Marcy has contributed so much to our community, and she has offered a great deal of support to me as well.”
From the time Marcy Dukette was very young, she knew she wanted to help people. At age 10, Dukette visited her uncle, who was injured in Vietnam, in Boston hospital. “I hung out with the nurses,” she chuckles.
There have been a lot of changes over the years, she notes, from equipment, to approach, to care. For example, she said, “Now we go into patients’ reality. If they tell me they went fishing or baked a pie yesterday, I’ll ask them about their adventures. It’s most important to see them happy.” Dukette sees one of her main roles as providing comfort to residents.
Families have also changed in the past five decades, she notes. Family members are all working, they are busy, and now there is much more information to be communicated to families to educate them on their elderly loved ones’ conditions. “There are so many things that we understand much more than we did then – because of that, families are more involved, but they can be more distracted, as well.”
Dukette observes that technology also drives change. Sometimes it is easier to use a manual blood pressure cuff, for example, than pull in another machine, but treatments are much higher tech. Medication is used more precisely; regulations have created many protocols.
Yet, as much as things have changed in 48 years, some things have remained the same at Mayo Healthcare. There has always been a sense of teamwork among caregivers, says Dukette. “One person can make a real difference in someone’s life, but it takes a whole team to really do the job. We give topnotch medical and nursing care, but we also offer a clean facility, and activities to stimulate residents’ minds and encourage laughter. Everything goes together. At Mayo, we all have one goal in mind: making residents’ lives better, today. This is so important when you are taking care of people to the end.”
Death and dying are always a challenging part of the job for a LNA working in a residential healthcare community. Dukette reflects that she has held so many hands of people as they die. “As much as families try to be there, we want to make sure that someone is not alone taking their last breath. Residents are so much more aware of things than some people think they are at the end. I think we all have that feeling that there is a spiritual peace, they’re not suffering any more, and that is helpful.” Dukette says that watching people die is an important part of the process, and an important part of being a nurse. “We all have our moments. We cry together, we laugh together, you try to hold yourself together.”
Dukette’s ultimate inspiration is the people; her co-workers as well as the residents, are the reason she worked at Mayo Healthcare for her entire career. “Mayo staff really make a difference in people’s lives, and that’s important to me.” She loves the Mayo team’s approach to taking care of people and helping them heal, which she says is most gratifying. “The older folks are so lovely. History plays out right front of me; these people lived through the Depression, and so much more. I’ve loved older people from the time I was very young because they have so many interesting stories and so much to offer.”
Dukette feels that while many jobs are necessary, nurses are privileged to interact with people who are so grateful for one’s help. “You know that you’ve made a difference when they pat your hand, smile, or wipe a tear. You have good and bad days, but either way, feeling fulfilled when you clock out at the end of the day is so important. It’s a job that keeps on giving. I’m glad that Mayo has given me the opportunity to do what I’ve done.”
COVID has been the biggest challenge of her career, but ultimately developments within Dukette’s family led to her decision to retire. Last year, Dukette lost her stepson to cancer. “Family has always been important to me. Losing one of your kids makes you look in the mirror. I looked life in the face.”
Dukette and her husband, Raymond, have 8 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. “Raymond and my children have been so supportive of my career over the years, and our family continues to grow. I have my Mayo family, and I have a wonderful family of my own.”
Dukette says she’s ready for the rest, although with so many decades behind her, the thought of a new life is daunting. “I’ve been a lucky woman – it’s hard to leave a place you’ve been going to for the last 48 years.” She looks forward to spending more time with her great-grandchildren, and perhaps, volunteering at Mayo: “They can always use a helping hand,” smiles Dukette.
Since 1939, Mayo Healthcare in Northfield has offered licensed residential care services for elderly adults, plus expert rehabilitation, and compassionate skilled nursing. For more information visit Mayohc.org.
Related Articles & Free Vermont Maturity Magazine Subscription