Yvonne Smith, RN, ‘98
Although nursing wasn’t her dream career as a child – she always imagined herself as a veterinarian – Yvonne Smith figures she can volunteer at the Humane Society when she retires. In the meantime, being a nurse feels just fine.
“Until my teen years, I wanted to be a vet, but then both of my parents became ill with cancer,” Smith says. “From a patient’s point of view, I knew they weren’t being cared for in a patient- and family-centered way. I really wanted to change that, to make a difference.
Another reason Smith went into nursing was to make a societal impact. Nursing is a form of social justice that fights back against such biases as ageism, sexism, racism and classism, Smith says.
“There are a lot of ‘isms’ being used in the delivery of care and judgments being made based on things like whether patients have Medicaid versus insurance policies,” she says. “How care is given to patients is a lot of times based on our own ‘isms.’ Nursing level-sets for all of that.”
After earning her associates degree in nursing, Smith practiced for 10 years before moving to Chicago for four years. After she and her husband, Reggie, moved back to St. Louis, she decided to earn her BSN at Maryville through the Weekend & Evening Program. Now she’s back in the program, taking evening classes and working toward her master’s degree in nursing with an education emphasis.
“Working 12-hour shifts, I really believe that without the weekend option I wouldn’t have been able to get my BSN,” Smith says. “It allowed me to move outside of bedside nursing, which I love, but that really opened doors for me. I was promoted as a case coordinator within four months. I would not have been able to even look at that job without my degree.”
It wasn’t easy to juggle work, a family and nursing studies, but her adviser at the time told Smith something she has never forgotten – in fact, she has repeated it many times to her children and her staff: “We’ll lift you up; we will not let you fail.”
“That was just so powerful,” Smith recalls. “When I decided to get my master’s, I didn’t even give it a thought; I knew Maryville was where I’d go. I’ve even referred two colleagues to the program.”
Her current adviser, Geralyn Frandsen, EdD, RN, is also a wonderful mentor, Smith says. Without her support, Smith would not be able to juggle a new job, new studies and moving to a new home in Lafayette Square – ironically, in the renovated St. Louis City Hospital building.
“With all the changes in my life, this has been a difficult semester to carve out time; there are so many competing priorities. But Geralyn has helped me organize my thoughts and plot out a path to get back on track.”
In more than 20 years of nursing, Smith has managed several areas, including obstetrics, an ambulatory surgery center, professional practice development and nursing staff education. She also led a project for BJC Healthcare to standardize clinical processes at eight different hospitals. She was just recently named director of women and infant services at SSM St. Clare Health Center in Fenton.
“I love nursing, I’m so proud to say that I’m a nurse when people ask me what I do,” Smith says.