2021 Nightingale Award Winner - Yolanda Hightower, RN
Joy to the World
Yolanda Hightower - RN
As a hospice nurse, Yolanda Hightower helps patients find joy in their remaining days.
Sometimes laughter isn’t the best medicine. Sometimes it’s the only medicine. That is especially true when caring for terminally ill patients, explained Yolanda Hightower, RN, a hospice nurse and case manager for Capital Caring Health.
“The most important thing you can bring to terminally ill patients is some sense of joy,” Yolanda explained. “Yes, this might be the end of your life, but there is still beauty in every bit of life.”
Yolanda works hard to help her patients see the good in the life they have remaining—and to even laugh a little. “If I can’t make a patient laugh, then I didn’t touch them. I get to know every patient personally, so I know how to make them laugh,” she said. Yolanda focuses on seeing patients as individuals with rich personalities and full lives—not simply as people with difficult diagnoses.
Prior to becoming a hospice nurse and case manager, Yolanda had worked throughout the nursing field. She started her career as an emergency room nurse and has also worked in intensive care units. Most recently, she was a dialysis nurse.
A self-described “trauma junkie,” Yolanda initially only agreed to a six-month contract as a hospice nurse—just to try it out. She has now been working with hospice patients and families for 20 years. She finds fulfillment in bringing people out of their shells and helping them to enjoy the time they have remaining.
During her long tenure, Yolanda has enjoyed many powerful and emotional relationships with terminally ill patients and their families. She emphasizes that despite enduring stigmas, the profession is not sad. “This has been the most rewarding position. Death is truly a journey—and it can be a beautiful one. Especially if you’ve lived a long life and have fulfilled your purpose. We have to treasure every day—even the final ones.”
While Yolanda cannot cure her patients, she can soothe them. She cannot heal the terminally ill, but she certainly hears them— and sees them—all of them. Using her remarkable gift for caring, Yolanda delivers joy to the world.
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