Staff gathered April 19 on the second floor of Augusta University Medical Center to dedicate a memorial to a nurse who spent over a decade serving patients with “a big smile and positive spirit.”
Yolanda Coar was an AU Health nurse manager who died Aug. 9, 2020, at age 40 after contracting COVID-19. She was remembered on the national stage during the Democratic National Convention, where she was honored in a video memorial to people who lost their lives to COVID-19.
“When we learned of her passing, we were in absolute shock,” said Vinyard, an assistant professor of surgery in the Department of Surgical Oncology at the Medical College of Georgia and surgical oncologist at the Georgia Cancer Center. “She wasn’t a nurse who was quiet, did the bare minimum and just went about her day. She was the nurse who you knew would do an excellent job, communicate well and make sure everything was done right.
“She was so kind, so helpful and so outstanding and as the plaque states, she exemplified the quote, ‘Be Exceptional.’”
Laura Brower, chief nursing officer for Augusta University Health, said Coar was well respected and highly thought of by nurses, technicians, residents, pharmacists, physicians and clinicians within AU Health.
“She not only had a leadership style of excellence but one of accountability,” Brower said. “She held herself and others accountable for achieving their job responsibility over and beyond at all times. Yolanda was a compassionate leader. She cared tremendously about the patients and the employees on her two nursing units. She utilized a servant leadership style as a nurse manager. Yolanda always had a beautiful smile. She was caring, compassionate, dependable, trustworthy, friendly and professional.”
Brower said physicians respected Coar’s clinical and leadership expertise while residents often sought her out for assistance as they were developing in their role.
“Yolanda was compassionate, receptive, and quick to try to understand others before trying to be understood,” said Dr. Patricia Morissette, associate program director for the Internal Medicine Residency Program and an assistant professor of medicine at MCG. “She never had a self-driven agenda but always put the patient care first with a big smile and positive spirit, no matter what the day would bring.”
Vinyard said the relationship she developed with Coar was the kind she strives to attain with her staff and those she interacts with every day. Vinyard said Coar was able to facilitate that connection with the nursing staff and physicians and made sure it was a positive and productive one.
“We worked as a team and she frequently reached out to ensure her staff was performing at the level desired,” Vinyard said. “Yolanda’s relationship with us was special because even though we were work colleagues, you also felt, above anything, she was your friend.”
Vinyard said many people were cared for by Coar directly as well as indirectly through the staff who had trained with her. Vinyard also noted that Coar truly loved her job and was working hard for the fight against COVID for patients before she became ill herself.
“She would not want our community, our hospital or others she helped to give up, fall down or let the integrity of our patient care be compromised due to the hardships of battling a pandemic,” Vinyard said. “She would still want the nurses, staff and the hospital’s standards to remain exceptional. She took pride in her job and would want us to continue to do the same.”
Brower also said it was important for everyone to celebrate Coar.
“I think it is important for the faculty, staff and the community to celebrate the work Yolanda did for AUMC, because she spent 13 years of her life as a nurse, taking care of people from this community, consistently giving her strength, knowledge, caring, compassion to ensure the best of care was given to every patient, every encounter, every time,” Brower said.