After 17 years in the field of nursing, Yolanda Harvard, neighborhood administrator for Hastings 2 and Reservoir 5 (the rehabilitation unit) at St. John’s Home, says that “nursing is something that just comes naturally to me.” However, do not let Yolanda’s modesty about what she does lead you to believe that her chosen path has not purposefully prepared her for this point in her career.
Having recently assumed an expanded role within St. John’s Home to oversee the rehabilitation services neighborhood team, it was Yolanda’s past experience and education that well positioned her for this new challenge. According to Yolanda, she was at first hesitant to take on the role because she sees herself as more of a hands-on contributor rather than “sitting behind a desk.” However, through encouragement from St. John’s Director of Nursing Diane Bogaczyk and the support of her co-workers, she decided to take this step.
Yolanda was surprised at the impact she could have in her new role. “I didn’t understand what it brings to the team,” says Yolanda. “Over time I have learned that it is the communication I have with people, sharing the education I have had, and being able to work alongside them, I am able to do so much more leading a team.”
Yolanda also notes that it is her breadth of experience and her having “walked a mile in their shoes” that earns her respect from members of her team. At the start of her career, Yolanda worked three years as an aide in long-term care in the Elmira, NY area and 5 years as a LPN, at which time she decided to pursue a 4-year nursing degree to become a register nurse (RN). Following graduation, she served 9 years as an RN working predominately in acute hospital and medical surgical nursing settings.
Four years ago, “opportunities to grow in her career” opened up said Yolanda, when she was hired to come to St. John’s Home as a nursing supervisor through an agency. Just prior to St. John’s, Yolanda had worked for Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, so moving to a smaller healthcare system was a change; however, being able to provide mentorship and support for other nurses, as well as those she serves, has given Yolanda new-found job satisfaction.
“I love being a support to the families and the elders we care for,” says Yolanda, who admits that the job of nursing is not an easy one. She encourages the people she manages to “stay positive” through the difficult days and “rely on each other.” For Yolanda, the motivation to face the challenges comes from “going home and knowing I did the best that I can and that you really do make a difference even if it’s just with one person.”
Working as a nurse during the pandemic has been especially difficult for new nurses to the field according to Yolanda. She has observed that with her newer direct reports, that opportunities to discover joy through the work have been more limited. “For newer nurses, they haven’t been able to see all the positives and value parts of nursing,” says Yolanda, who notes that so much of the daily routine during this time has been task oriented. “We are missing the passion piece right now.”
To change this, Yolanda has been focused on implementing changes that allow staff members to discover joy in their work and ultimately, which lead to better care for the residents. Among her top priorities are: to be clear on expectations, open in communication, and create a warm environment for both staff and residents. “Small pieces really do make a difference,” says Yolanda, who has daily huddles to ensure everyone knows what is expected of them and so that they can ask for any help that is needed.
According to Yolanda, people tell her that she is just “super positive,” however, she believes that most days are good days. “It’s such a passion for me. I do what I can when I am here and come back the next day and try to do better.”