Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital
Santa Rosa, CA
Terry Yoas is well known for his cheerful Hawaiian shirts that have become his trademark and working uniform as a care partner at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital’s oncology unit. For the past 16 years, Terry has created and continues to establish a welcoming, safe and caring second home for cancer patients and their families. Although becoming a certified nursing assistant was something Terry pursued later in life, it seems he was always destined to find his own home at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he was born.
“I feel like I didn’t choose oncology, oncology chose me,” says Terry, who believes that every encounter with a person is a chance to make a positive difference in that person’s life. “If you’re doing it right, you’re going to get just as much out of caring for that person as that person is going to get from you.”
For Terry, this isn’t just his job—caring for others is something he loves to do. He finds ways to connect with every patient, learning their personal story and listening attentively to their needs.
“He ensures the dignity of our patients by going the extra step to make a connection with each person at an individual level.”
“Terry made it possible for me to start to step out of my depression. He gave me hope,” says a patient.
Terry also has a knack for remembering the small details that can make a big difference, like determining how a patient likes her coffee and having it ready each day. During his time off, Terry often comes to sit with patients who are having a rough day or at the end of life, or stops by the ICU to comfort patients and families who have been in his care and whose condition may have worsened.
“He instills hope through his gentleness, humility and the ever-present joy and pride with which he performs his work,” says a colleague. “Terry treats each person for whom he cares like a member of his own family.”
Over the years, Terry has formed many bonds with his patients and families. One poignant example of compassion was the time Terry came in on his day off to fashion a customized wheelchair with his own tools for one of his patients who had become increasingly dependent on IV medications, which made it a challenge to leave the room. After some teamwork and ingenuity, Terry and his patient rigged together a wheelchair that could carry all of the necessary medical equipment. Together, they wheeled to the healing garden and creek to enjoy the outdoors. Terry will never forget the big smile on this patient’s face, because to Terry, “compassionate care is the only kind of care.”