Yolanda Smith

Yolanda is someone you want on your team during uncertain and trying circumstances. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, we were surrounded by a lot of fear and confusion, but Yolanda wasted no time! She immediately stepped up as an administrator in the COVID Response Team, all while keeping a spirit of calmness and reassurance to all members of the department and Duke University Health System. Yolanda has demonstrated many innovative practices to improve nursing care delivery, education, and ongoing efforts to address the health system’s response to COVID relief efforts. She is a true asset to her department and community at large.


She is well known for her authenticity and trustworthiness by her direct reports. She demonstrates integrity in her actions and serves as a role model for others to cultivate healthy work environments. She instills a sense of trust from those she supervises. Input from some of her direct reports: “Personally, what I have observed is consistency in her words aligning with her actions. As a leader, she is great at working well with others and putting the interests of the organization above her own. However, she has also shown she is not afraid to speak up for her team and do what is right even in the face of opposition.”; “I admire how she leads/manages such a large and diverse group. Her ability to do so while always having a smile on her face and a cheerful spirit is so impressive!”; “I always know if I have a problem I can go to her. She is always showing she cares about her employees. She has always helped me work through problems that I am having and is generous with her time no matter how busy she is. She responds to problems quickly and has always gone above and beyond for her employees.”


Her achievements are numerous and she always demonstrates her willingness to go the extra mile to advance our department and staff. Here are some of her accomplishments: Clinical Ladder Advisor at Duke University Hospital; member of the Duke Health System Nurses Week Committee; Assistant Director of the North Carolina Nurses Association (NCNA) Triangle Region; Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Chair of Health Awareness for Knightdale/Wake Forest Chapter; member of Women’s Fellowship at Journey Church; yearly participant in American Heart Association Heart Walk; participant in Komen’s Cure; frequent Friends of Nursing nominee and nominator; Poster Presenter “Exploring [X] Orientation” 2019-2020; CNML certification; Master’s in Business Administration; serves as Mentor to develop RNs for Clinical Lead role.


She has demonstrated many innovative practices to improve nursing care delivery, education and ongoing efforts to address the health system’s response to COVID relief efforts. She worked with a nurse in one division to develop and improve an orientation process that combined training to both critical care and intermediate care for new graduate nurses. This project was accepted as a poster presentation for the 2020 Magnet Conference. In addition, she has developed and implemented multiple changes to care delivery in response to the COVID pandemic to meet patient care needs. She created new, innovative ways to hold staff meetings, onboard new hires, and develop new employee roles to assist in relief efforts and ensure safety of staff. In addition, she successfully transitioned department orientation to virtual environment, implemented several project-based efforts to assist staffing, and found creative ways to address redeployment efforts for employees across the health system.


When the COVID- 19 pandemic began in March of 2020, she immediately stepped up and took the role as an administrator for the COVID Response Team. She brought a spirit of calmness and reassurance to all members of our department and Duke University Health System (DUHS) at large. She was looked to as a source of information, direction and guidance to navigate through the initial crisis. She participated in the Staffing Hub and coordinated with the team to hire and re-deploy staff to cover various roles. She led efforts to onboard 100 new employees for Entrance Screening and PPE Observer roles and interviewed 40 travelers to assist with opening of new departments and volume across DUHS. She worked collaboratively with other departments and leadership from DUHS Clinical Education and Professional Development (CEPD), Employee Occupational Health & Wellness (EOHW), Nurse Recruitment (including others) to coordinate and develop new staff for specialty roles: Patient Service Attendants, Entrance Screeners, Swab Squad, Employee Health and PPE observers. This required creation of orientation standards, work standards and job descriptions.


When one thinks of a caring nurse, often their mind immediately reflects on care exhibited toward patients. Caring goes beyond the care of just patients. We must also care for each other. Knowing that DUHS is a center of excellence that prides itself in the diversity of hiring and maintaining nurses and staff with a variety of talents, skills, educational levels, ages, years of experience, cultural backgrounds, and more, she individualizes her approach and shows true sincerity in caring for others. She is a role model and mentor of what caring means and encompasses. She thinks carefully about how she can create an experience of growing and advancing for each individual employee. She focuses on the strengths, but also helps the team to see their weaknesses by providing insightful feedback to improve those weaknesses. She has worked in many areas within healthcare and strives to help her staff to consistently be and do their best.


She deserves to be selected for this award because of her dedication, loyalty and exceptional performance as a leader and her commitment to ensure the well-being, safety, and job satisfaction for staff.

Yolanda Smith

Yolanda Smith


Nurse Manager
Duke Clinical Staffing Department
Duke University Health System


Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership
Duke Nursing logo
Duke Nursing Congratulates Yolanda Smith on the Award for Excellence in Nursing Leadership



Friends of Nursing Gala 2021

Friends of Nursing Gala 2021

Friends of Nursing Gala 2021