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A Calling for Caring: Tomekia Ribac, LPN LLH, The Gardens at Warwick Forest

May 12, 2022

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When a loved one is in a nursing home—often for their very last days—it is a great comfort to know they are being treated with the utmost care and compassion. If the person providing that care is Tomekia Ribac, LPN LLH, you can rest assured that your beloved family member is in the best possible hands.

A graduate of MCI University (now ECPI), Tomekia began her nursing career at The Gardens at Warwick Forest in Newport News right out of school, twenty-four years ago. She was inspired to become a geriatrics nurse by her own personal experience, when her mother became ill and had to receive nursing-home care at the end of her life.

“After my mother went into the nursing home, I saw that there was a great need for excellent nurses in geriatrics,” Tomekia recalls. “When I came to The Gardens at Warwick Forest, I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be. This is my calling.”

Indeed, Tomekia strongly believes that nursing is “a calling from a Higher Being. In any area of nursing, in order to do what you have to do, you really have to have a loving heart and want to be there. It comes from deep down inside.”

This commitment to serving others is particularly vital in geriatrics nursing, where elderly residents are often confused due to dementia, and may be lonely because few family members and friends are left to come visit them. They may be experiencing grief because they have lost people they love. These patients require an extra level of compassion. “I love being able to help them and show them that someone still cares about them,” Tomekia says.

One of the aspects of the job that is both fulfilling and challenging is getting emotionally attached, she acknowledges. “I’m at work more than I’m at home. I spend a lot of time having conversations with residents and learning about their lives and their families. I will often take care of one person for a very long time. It’s hard when you lose them,” she says.

Tomekia cherishes the special moments she shares with residents, such as one of her current patients who calls her “Ruby.” “I am not sure why she calls me that; I think I remind her of someone she once knew named Ruby,” Tomekia explains. “She will tell me, ‘Whatever you say, Ruby! If you say it’s good for me, I will do it!’ She is a very sweet person.”

Throughout her quarter of a century at The Gardens at Warwick Forest, Tomekia has adapted to the many changes in health-care technology and day-to-day procedures. For example, when she first started out, residents’ charts were kept with paper and pens. “Now we are strictly computerized; every aspect of the chart is managed electronically,” she explains.

When she’s not at work, Tomekia enjoys spending time with her husband, a U.S. Air Force veteran, and their dog. She also enjoys crafts such as quilting.

“I enjoy what I do and I would recommend The Gardens at Warwick Forest to any new nurse,” Tomekia says. “It’s a great place to work. I love the staff, the residents, and the families.”

For Tomekia, National Nurses Week is “a time set aside to thank nurses for their hard work.” As challenging as the job of a nurse may be, the fulfillment found in caring makes it all worthwhile. “After residents have gone, I’ve received notes from family members thanking me for things I did that I don’t even remember doing,” she says. “I am so grateful that they know I care, and that I had the opportunity to help someone.”

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