When a cancer patient confined to a bed yearns to be outside, Terry Yoas
is the one who figures out how to make that happen – even if it
means coming in on his day off and adapting a wheelchair or hospital bed
so the patient can feel the warm sun and smell the grass.
Yoas, a care partner at
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, is known for his uncanny ability to connect with people and put them
at ease. He knows how patients like their coffee, which sports teams they
follow, the names of their kids, what makes them happy.
Yoas’ commitment to compassionate care has earned him national distinction.
He is one of only six finalists in the country for the prestigious Schwartz
Center National Caregiver of the Year (NCCY) Award.
The 2015 award recipient will be announced on Nov. 18 at the 20th Annual
Kenneth B. Schwartz Compassionate Healthcare Dinner in Boston before an
audience of more than 2,000 health care leaders, caregivers and patients.
Award-winning author Atul Gawande will present the inaugural NCCY Award
as the event’s honorary speaker.
Yoas was nominated for working hard to create a welcoming and caring “second
home” for Santa Rosa Memorial’s patients and ensuring their
dignity by going the extra step to make a connection with each person.
“Terry has a knack for opening lines of communication with even the
most withdrawn patients,” said Bonnie Brooks, an oncology nurse
at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. “I have learned much by watching
and listening to him engage with his patients. He easily finds common
ground with almost everyone.”
A former truck driver and foreman who is known for his big heart and trademark
Hawaiian shirts, Yoas says he never imagined himself doing what he does today.
“If you had asked me 22 years ago if I would be working in a hospital,
I would have told you, ‘No way,’” Yoas said. “It’s
the last place I would have said I’d have a job. I used to not like
hospitals. I didn’t like being there. I felt that they were depressing.”
After getting injured on the job, Yoas realized he needed a new career.
He didn’t just find a new career; he found his calling. He began
working as a medical assistant and then transitioned to a care partner,
where he first worked in orthopedics and then labor and delivery. A people
person, he loved helping patients – and they loved him. When a job
oncology, he moved into that area of care.
“Oncology chose me. I automatically fell in love with it,”
he said. “The patients that you take care of are so grateful for
what you’re doing. The nurses are exceptional. In oncology, we form
relationships. I feel like I make a difference in peoples’ lives.”
In oncology, patients often have multiple admissions and prolonged stays,
sometimes succumbing to cancer, Brooks said.
“Because of these relationships, Terry attends many funerals and
life celebrations,” she said. “He is a true ambassador for
our oncology unit and Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.”
For Yoas, compassionate care is paying close attention to the personal
needs of all patients, including those who can’t take care of themselves.
He tries to figure out what they want and makes sure their hair is combed
and teeth are cleaned – little things that can help restore dignity
Yoas extends that attention to detail and care to the patient’s family
members and friends, making sure visitors have something to drink, a place
to sit and that they’re comfortable.
“I have seen so many times how patients worried more about how everyone
else is doing than themselves,” he said.
Yoas epitomizes the value of service, said Nicole Taborski, RN, who has
worked with Yoas for 14 years.
“Time and time again, patients comment on his ability to complete
his tasks for the day while making them feel like they are understood,
listened to and made to feel like they matter each and every time he comes
into the room,” Taborski said. Yoas has the innate ability to make
a patient feel at ease and comfortable in an otherwise uncomfortable setting,
she said. Yoas has a true passion for people, caregiving and teaching, she said.
“He is a true gift to our unit and our organization and it continues
to be a blessing to work alongside him on a daily basis,” Taborski said.
Yoas, who was born at
Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, said he is proud to be part of a dedicated care team at the hospital.
“The people I work with are there because they love what they do.
I think that shines through to the patients,” he said.
Yoas isn’t used to fuss or attention but is looking forward to going
“I’m the guy who likes to stay under the radar,” he said.
“I really don’t want that much recognition. The boldest thing
I do is wear Hawaiian shirts every day for my patients.”
Unassuming and humble, Yoas said the honor could have gone to any of his
“So many people that I work with at Memorial Hospital are more worthy
or just as worthy,” he said. “I just do my job to the best
of my ability.”
“I love what I do,” he added. “Isn’t that what
we’re striving for?”