by Lydia Weaver, Community Relations Specialist
From the ripe old age of 12, McGoff knew she wanted to be a nurse. The first time she remembers her grandmother being admitted to the hospital, McGoff was too young to be allowed visitation in the room. At age 14, when her grandmother was readmitted, she was again told that she was too young to enter. Determined not to miss a single thing, McGoff set out to become a nurse so that she could be there all the time, instead of stuck in a waiting room.
Since then, McGoff ’s career has spanned both continents and generations: She has been stationed around the world, but also assists young and old at home in Winchester. Today, McGoff works as an adjunct nursing faculty member at Shenandoah University leading behavioral health courses. Along with that position, McGoff volunteers as a parish nurse for Bethel Lutheran Church, is a part of the We Honor Veterans program at Blue Ridge Hospice, serves as an Honor Flight nurse and is active with the American Red Cross.
In fact, she is the most recent recipient of our region’s Acts of Courage and Spirit of the Red Cross Award. Her commitment to caring for others extends to many more organizations, but her upbringing was the catalyst of a decades-long (and still counting) career.
McGoff grew up with her grandparents and mother, and she says they were always caring people.
As a family, they would take care of neighborhood friends when they got hurt. Being raised around such compassionate behavior inspired McGoff to become a caretaker professionally. When it comes to nursing, she says caring and working together to help one another are the most important factors, but those characteristics can’t be exclusively taught in school.
“If you don’t have [caring] in your blood, you shouldn’t even be there,” she says.
Convinced she couldn’t get into nursing school herself, McGoff began her caregiving by joining a rescue squad in Pennsylvania, her home state, where she took her first first-aid class. She also enrolled in the licensed practical nurse program at her local technical school, which led to her being accepted to Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia. McGoff continued her education earning a Master of Nursing Administration at George Mason University, so clearly, the journey worked out.
Emergency departments quickly became McGoff ’s primary workplace. Thriving in the fast-paced environment, she led emergency and trauma services at multiple hospitals.
McGoff has trained others on disaster preparedness, established trauma centers, and created disaster-management programs for three emergency departments.
She took that experience with her in various volunteering roles with the American Red Cross and into her next endeavor.
AN ELEVATED LEVEL OF CARE
McGoff ’s military career began later, around 1989. She had always wanted to enlist, initially considering it during the Vietnam War, but her mother didn’t want her to be sent off to war. When she received a postcard in the mail looking for nurses about 20 years later, McGoff was still interested. This time, even with two children at home, her husband encouraged her to apply. With the assumption that she may be too old to be accepted, McGoff was surprised to hear the request to bring her onboard, and with her medical experience, she joined as a major.
Entering the 167th Air National Guard as a major didn’t impress some of the other nurses. Coming in at a high rank, while her colleagues assumed she was young and inexperienced, led to bullying.
McGoff said she would go home crying on weekends. Now, she uses that experience when teaching students during mental health clinical courses.
As a flight nurse, her deployments were about four months at a time. She arranged flights, assembled teams of nurses and flew patients to other hospitals when they needed more care. She and her team also cared for patients during the transportation flights, sometimes tending to hundreds at a time. McGoff’s military experience includes deployments for Desert Shield/Storm in Saudi Arabia, Operation Joint Guardian in Macedonia and Kosovo, and Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq.
Luckily, McGoff says she felt fully prepared when entering the field of nursing, primarily because of how she was raised.
“My family taught me well,” she says. “To respect people, and treat them right, and do what you can to help them. As a nurse, that’s my job.”
McGoff puts an emphasis on connecting with her patients and their families as part of her caregiving.
She also strives to instill this in her students.
When asked about what she feels students must know when entering nursing, McGoff replies: “They are here for the patient and the family. You’ve got to talk to these people.”
On or off duty, McGoff’s compassionate demeanor is evident in her interactions with others. Dianne Klopp, her friend and fellow Top of Virginia Honor Flight volunteer, commends McGoff ’s work for the organization, which takes local veterans to Washington, D.C. McGoff has volunteered as a nurse with Honor Flight for over six years.
“We recently had a conversation about her teaching nursing students at Shenandoah University; she emphasized the importance of teaching them not just the medical skills, but how vitally important it is for them to have empathy and care for their patients,” Klopp says. “Edie exemplifies what it means to have a servant’s heart.”