LaBarge retired last Friday after nearly four decades as a registered nurse at Carthage Area Hospital, where she worked in Medical Surgery, Obstetrics and, most recently, Ambulatory Surgery. She joined the Medical Surgery team as a nurse on March 13, 1978.
“Today, we honor a woman who has consistently given this hospital her best while serving countless patients with empathy and kindness for four decades,” CEO Rich Duvall said. “It’s not often that we say goodbye to a nurse who has been a member of our hospital family for as long as you, Rita. Your family here will sincerely miss your experience and nurturing hand.”
Duvall said nurses like LaBarge are “rare gems who we hate to lose.”
“There is no easy replacement for a nurse of Rita’s character and experience as a leader and mentor to so many younger nurses and staff,” Duvall said. “If we could find someone with just an ounce of her drive and perseverance, we would be so lucky.”
Duvall presented LaBarge with a plaque “for meritorious service” and a certificate of merit from New York State Assemblyman Kenneth Blankenbush, R-Black River, honoring her career.
LaBarge said she sought a job at Carthage Area Hospital after she earned a nursing degree at St. Elizabeth College of Nursing in Utica and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the former State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome because the hospital was close to her family in nearby Champion.
She chose to stay at Carthage because of family and the life that she and her husband, Peter, had made in the area. The two have been married for 34 years and together have two daughters, Nicole Piche, 32, of Cordova, Alaska; and Megan, 28, of Long Beach, Long Island, who is engaged to wed this month.
On mentoring younger, less experienced nurses, Labarge said it was important to help them gain confidence:
“Young nurses come insecure and it was important to teach them good assessment skills and be a resource for them,” she said. “You need resource people your whole life.”
In retirement, LaBarge said she looks forward to traveling to visit her daughter in Alaska later this year and spending more time gardening, selling cut flowers, and working at her “first love” of landscape architecture on her 65-acre property in Champion.
To those considering a call to the nursing profession, LaBarge offered some advice:
“If you really like people and science and have good organizational skills, go for it,” she said. “But it isn’t easy; you have to be good at multitasking and comfortable on your feet 12 hours a day.”