Blessed by her career Vicki Croft wins award for long-term care

Ryan Fitzmaurice
Vicki Croft has received one of the most prestigious awards in Wyoming healthcare. What led to her success was a simple desire – to help people as people have helped her.

Croft was awarded the Daniel J. Lex Award for Lifetime Service in Long-Term Care in Cheyenne earlier this month. Lex led the Quality Healthcare Foundation of Wyoming for more than 20 years. The award, given in his memory, honors one outstanding professional who has dedicated their career to providing high quality longterm care.

Croft has worked for the North Big Horn Hospital District for 25 years and currently serves in the New Horizons Care Center. Her journey into nursing wasn’t the typical one and shows that, no matter where one is in life, one can always start again and create something better.

For Croft, her journey into nursing started at the age of 36. She graduated nursing school at 40 years old.

“Twentynine years ago, I was at a point in my life where my marriage was struggling and I knew I needed to make a plan to provide for my five kids,” Croft said.

Croft said she was working four jobs, including running a daycare and multiple cleaning jobs, but for all the hours, not enough pay was coming in. Croft knew she had to go to school for something better.

She had her heart set initially on teaching but learned it would take her five years to land a spot. That wasn’t time she had with five kids. Nursing only took two years to land a better paying job, and Croft began to wonder. “I might go to nursing school, but I didn’t know if I could do it,” Croft said.

But, her friends told her that she could, so she made the leap.

“It was scary,” Croft continued. “I didn’t tell anyone I was going to start school for a while. But, when I got As, I put them on the fridge with my kids. I thought ‘I could do this. I could do this.’ It made me feel like I was capable of doing other things.”

In her own words, Croft had a lot of tender mercies along the way.

“My car would overheat going to school. One day it just quit on me. I met this old mechanic in Powell, and he would come and get me several times,” Croft said. “I would break down in Powell, and he would come and get me. He’d fix my car every time.”

And then, right at the start of the program, came another surprise. Croft became pregnant with her sixth child. With a newborn on her hands a little under a year later, Croft needed someone to watch after the baby. To her disbelief, she found someone. “Marie Thomas took him in at 5 in the morning, and every time she would say ‘you have the best day.’ She was amazing,” Croft said. “If she hadn’t taken my new baby, I never would have got through.”

It’s people like this, who gave her a hand when she most needed it, that she still remembers when she serves patients and residents today.

“I love people. People had helped me a lot, and I like to help others also,” Croft said.

Croft began her nursing career performing multiple roles. She worked in the emergency depa r tment . She worked medical surgery. She worked in Powell at the OBGYN unit. But, when a position sprung open at the New Horizons Care Center 17 years ago, she knew it gave her a chance to be closer to her kids. She got the job and has never left.

Within New Horizons Care Center, Croft has found her calling.

“I just call them my friends, but I love the elderly. I like to make them feel like they still count,” Croft said. “I love their stories. I like to try to make their day every day. There’s World War II veterans. There are teachers. They helped in our communities. I want them to feel like they are important. When you get older, and if you get dementia, people don’t always know what they did. They deserve for someone to still recognize them. Even if they were just a homemaker, their life was important.”

Croft said she has been blessed abundantly by her career and the team she works with.

“Little did I know what nursing would do for me and my family all these years later. It has allowed me to provide for my family, form lasting relationships with coworkers and residents and allowed me to serve and continue to learn,” Croft said. “Nursing has been a blessing in my life that I didn’t know I needed when I first began. I will be forever grateful for what nursing has done for me.”

North Big Horn Hospital CEO Eric Connell said it’s important to recognize how prestigious the Daniel J. Lex Award is and said Croft would want him to clarify that it is the whole department who is worthy of the award, and not just Croft.

“It’s a testament to who Vicki is and all the hard work she had done through many years. Vicki is reflected through all of our team members. We just have great people here, that’s the bottom line. Vicki accepted the award for our community and for the other nurses and caregivers that work here,” Connell said. “It’s just cool that Vicki was selected. It’s the top award for long-term care in the state. There’s not many people who have received it.”