Liz Toci felt at home when she came to Homeland Center for a job interview.
“When I walked in the door, I thought it was a beautiful place,” says Homeland’s new infection preventionist. She brings to Homeland a lifetime of caring for others, a deep interest in nursing for the elderly, and a passion for keeping people and places healthy.
Liz had always enjoyed caring for people, even when she was young and helping raise her younger brothers. She had some shadowing opportunities in nursing and realized that nurses “see people when they’re very vulnerable and need an advocate.”
The Middletown native earned her bachelor’s degree in nursing at West Chester University. For a time, she worked in nursing with psychiatric patients. Her dementia patients gave her an affinity for the elderly, and she went to work for a Harrisburg-area nursing home.
Liz says that advocacy skills are especially important for nurses who support dementia patients.
“It becomes about your intuition and trying to sense what people want and what they need,” she says. “It’s a lot of trying to interpret their desires and what’s going to make them most comfortable.”
Liz’s previous job as assistant director of nursing and conducting infection-prevention duties—all during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic—also raised her awareness of the steps nursing staff can take to educate themselves and protect their patients.
“Because we worked with a very vulnerable population, I wanted to learn as much as possible about how to prevent it from coming in, so the residents are at the least risk possible,” says Liz, who joined Homeland in 2022.
As an infection preventionist, she monitors antibiotic use among the residents, tracking to ensure they’re getting better. She also helps interpret and implement Department of Health COVID guidelines. She says that Homeland staff members are receptive to education about safety protocols because “when you work in long-term care, you see how hard even a minor infection can impact someone.”
She says that Homeland’s well-organized and collaborative operations benefit the residents and uphold excellence.
“It creates better outcomes because I have collaboration in my infection control efforts,” Liz says. “I can also lend a hand in the role of RN and help out with whatever needs the clinical staff might have. It's a great team atmosphere, providing better support for residents.”
She can also approach colleagues and Homeland administrators for answers to her questions.
“It's great to feel like you can ask questions to continue learning,” she says. “It's nice to feel like you're learning something new every day because the knowledge base in this field is so broad.”
Maybe someday, she’ll get a nurse practitioner degree, but she will always work in gerontology. For Liz, it’s about helping the elderly who have “worked so hard their whole lives. As a society, we need to reward them for all their hard work—give them some time to rest and enjoy their retirement and life.”
Liz and her husband live in Middletown, and in her free time, she scours flea markets for jewelry that she takes apart and restrings into fun, colorful necklaces and bracelets.
“That's my creative outlet,” she says. “I go to flea markets and put necklaces in plastic bags. For $10, I can entertain myself for months.”
She also enjoys reading, including such classics as “Anna Karenina” and “Madame Bovary.” She discovered her love of the classics in high school and expanded her reading list when college friends with diverse majors introduced her to their favorites.
It’s all about soaking up learning, including lessons from visiting with Homeland’s residents. She also loves the range of Homeland activities.
“Residents need more than just their basic needs met,” she says. “They need their social needs to be met. They need stimulation. I think it's just wonderful when I'm walking around and see all the activities going on to help improve the residents’ quality of life.”