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While Marilyn Faye Coggins hasn’t lived on a farm for several decades, the work ethic farm life instilled in her is evident in her 51-year nursing career and she doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon.
“Faye is very caring and thorough. She is efficient, knows her job well and really helps me understand what is going on with a patient before I go in,” said Dr. Charles Baio at Wilson Medical Associates. “She is a very compassionate person and she’s been a tremendous asset to my practice.”
Coggins was just 19 when she enrolled in a year-long training program at Wayne Community College to become a licensed practical nurse. It was 1967 and conversations with Aunt Louise — her dad’s sister who was a nurse in Baltimore — sparked her interest, ultimately leading her down a path that would involve more than five decades of taking vital signs, administering injections and serving as the right hand to various doctors.
“I love talking to the patients and they become friends after knowing them for so many years,” Coggins said. “The connection is what I love most.”
Coggins, 67, was the eldest of three children born to a southern Wilson County couple. She said she doesn’t even remember how old she was when she started pitching in around the farm, but she definitely remembers the work.
“Mostly what we did was plant the tobacco and chop. I think I chopped from here to California,” she said with a grin.
“We didn’t have weed control back then, so we’d chop with a hoe.”
When she was around 12 years old, her family moved into the town of Saratoga where her mother, Miss Bobbie, became a well-known mother and babysitter in the neighborhood.
“Most of my life was in the small town of Saratoga, but my uncles and all them still farmed, so we’d help them,” she said. “I still was surrounded by the atmosphere of farming.”
For the first half of Coggins’ career, she worked with Dr. Harvey Grode at the Wilson Clinic.
“When I was with Dr. Grode, I saw a lot of cancer patients. It was hard watching their families suffer,” she recalled.
“The hardest part of my job is seeing patients go down the road toward the end and knowing there is no way to rescue them. You deal a lot with the families and try to support them.”
In 1991, Coggins switched to Wilson Medical Associates where she saw about 20 patients each day.
“Many, many times when I’m out, people will come up to me and say, ‘Thank you for taking care of my mom,’” she said.
“In those times, I feel so very humbled. It means a lot that they remember me in the first place and that they are kind enough to share their appreciation.”
On Aug. 11, 2017, her coworkers surprised her with a party to commemorate 50 years in the field. Since then, she’s transitioned to a part-time schedule, which she said she thoroughly enjoys, so she hasn’t begun planning her retirement.
While Coggins has seen many changes throughout her career, she said the biggest adjustment was the shift toward computers.
“I wish I’d paid more attention in typing class,” she said with a laugh. “As far as the one-on-one interaction with patients, that is pretty much the same. Showing kindness and compassion for their problems hasn’t changed.”
Coggins’ husband of 47 years, Pat, also is still hard at work at Boykin Heavy Duty Parts.
“Regrets? I have none,” she said. “I can say that without hesitation.”