South Side Achiever

Nurse Barbara Yancey educates about kidney disease, serves as community advocate

It’s all in the smile for Barbara Yancey, a registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health Center.

“A lot of people say that when I smile it gives them hope,” she said. “And I think that my smile is the beacon of hope that lets people know everything will be all right.”

Yancey works as a clinical coordinator in one of St. Joseph’s regional dialysis centers, working with patients and managing the unit. But her career as a registered nurse came later on in life.

Born and raised on the South Side, Yancey started working in the hospital at 14 years old. In her early years, she realized her passion for nursing.

“I always had the heart and passion to be in the hospital,” she said.

She was a licensed practical nurse for 26 years before going back to school in 2005 to receive an associate degree as a registered nurse.

Today, Yancey works with patients of all ages living with dialysis. In her own quiet way, she says she advocates for the prevention of kidney disease.

“I really try to encourage people and talk to them about getting their blood pressure checked,” she said. “Getting that baseline and knowing where you stand is the best prevention.”

Last year, Yancey said she spoke to local parishioners at Open Arms International Ministries to educate them about kidney disease.

She continues to educate people in the community and those she sees at St. Joseph’s.

“Your whole lifestyle changes when you are on dialysis,” she said. “So I think it’s important to let patients know that they may be down today but soon they’ll start feeling better. My main thing is encouraging people and bringing encouragement.”

Yancey’s volunteer work doesn’t stop when she leaves the hospital. She is an active member of Abundant Life Christian Center and sings in the choir each week. She is also an advocate for young women.

In November 2010, Yancey was asked to join New Direction Community Network, a group dedicated to empowering young women through mentorship.

Understanding the difficult situations that many young women face was something that tugged on Yancey’s heartstrings, she said.

In 2005 while studying to become an RN, Yancey went through a divorce after 21 years of marriage. The marriage and divorce taught her strength, patience and endurance — all of which she draws from when working with young women, she said.

“When I first started with New Direction, I had a mentee I was working with,” she said. “I would work with her and help her, and by me advising and encouraging her I was able to see her get out of her situation and move on.”

For Yancey, it all amounts to making people feel like they matter and have purpose in everything, she said.

“People need joy, they need peace and they need to know that they can be happy,” she said. “What makes me happy is when I see them come in with a smile.”

Yancey, a mother of three who is also a grandmother, said her work is about cultivating great relationships and educating people about important issues.

“I do my own advocating and it’s more about me getting the word out,” she said.

“I’m an observer, and I don’t say much but I like to make things happen.”