Thrive by IU Health

Her career spans more than three decades, training more than 100 new nurses

IU Health University Hospital

Her career spans more than three decades, training more than 100 new nurses

She’s been called “a calming force,” and “an excellent teacher.” Joan Yager has dedicated more than three decades to nursing at IU Health.

By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org

There’s a saying around the Medical Progressive Care Unit at IU Health University Hospital, “Do it for Joan.”

Team members not only admire Joan Yager but also strive to emulate her. Her peers recently recognized her for 35 years of service to IU Health. The truth is, Yager started her career at Methodist Hospital but thought the hospital was too big so she left for three months and then returned.

“I went to a smaller hospital and didn’t think I’d be challenged enough so I came back to IU Health,” said Yager, who has spent the majority of her career working at the bedside of patients in the Medical Progressive Care Unit. She’s also served as a preceptor for more than 100 new nurses.

Monica Wilhelm was one of those new nurses. Yager took her under her wing for Wilhelm’s senior year capstone and then on-boarded her at IU Health.

“Everyone says she’s intimidating because she’s so thorough, but really she puts her heart into everything. I wouldn’t be the nurse I am now without her guidance,” said Wilhelm, who now helps acclimate new nurses joining IU Health.

A native of Southern Rush County, Yager grew up on a farm where her family raised hogs and harvested corn and soybean crops. She was the eldest of 10 children born to Francis and Kathleen Yager. The eldest and youngest siblings are separated by 21 years.

“We grew up doing a lot of gardening, canning, freezing, and grinding your own hamburger,” said Yager, a graduate of the University of Evansville. “My friends used to tease me in college because I ate fast. With ten kids we didn’t fix much and by the time it went around the table you might not get your fill.” Her role in the family hierarchy also meant that she and her younger sister helped with the cooking and cleaning.

“We were just a hardworking family. I admired that in my parents,” said Yager. Later in life her mother also became a nurse.

“She always encouraged me to go into nursing. I think because she wanted to become a nurse one day and she also saw me in that oldest sibling role where I was nurturing,” said Yager. In college she attended the University of Evansville’s study abroad center, Harlaxton College in Lincolnshire, England and worked in an OB unit at a nearby hospital. She spent part of her senior year of college working for the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C. on a project involving insulin pumps. Yager started her nursing career working in a 49-bed diabetic unit at Methodist Hospital. When she moved to University Hospital she worked in the medical unit primarily caring for renal patients. She then joined a medical-surgery resource pool working in various areas including OB, psychiatric care, and hematology-oncology. Eventually she saw IU Health separate the progressive care unit into medical progressive care and surgical care. She remained part of the medical progressive care team.

“I love my team and I have worked with some great physicians over the years,” said Yager. In addition to being a preceptor and clinical instructor, Yager is certified in critical care and progressive care, and has been nominated for a Daisy Award, recognizing extraordinary nurses.

Her peers have said, “She’s one of the best preceptors ever,” “If you want to hang with Joan you better wear running shoes. She’s always on the go,” and “When there’s a code, she is calm and cool because she knows it sets the tone.” One co-worker called her a “Nursing Jedi Master.”

Her supervisor Frank Anderson describes Yager as humble. “She doesn’t realize the inspiration she has on everyone – not just nurses but our staff. She leaves a memorable impression on everyone. She’s passionate about what she does and how she does it. She’ll do anything for anyone.”

Yager trains nurses the way she would want to be trained – focusing on critical thinking and organization.

“I try not to overwhelm them,” said Yager. “On the first day they just follow me and then on the second day they learn by doing. I’ll give them one patient and then I quiz them over that patient, asking questions like ‘what are the three biggest problems you’re watching for and accessing?’ Then I will have them show me their organization sheet and help coach them through what we will talk to the doctor about.” She also learns from new hires.

“They’ve taught me things about the most recent research-based practices and I think that’s important because as a nurse you should constantly be learning,” said Yager, who recently became certified in chemotherapy/immunotherapy.

She also encourages other nurses to care for themselves.

“Because our patients are so sick I get to work with so many people in so many departments – speech, physical therapy, radiology, dietary,” said Yager. “Also because our patients are so sick, there can be days that are tough. I tell them ‘you will have codes, you will have patients die, you have to lean on each other and find ways to handle stress.’”

When she’s away from the hospital, Yager enjoys photographing her nieces’ and nephews’ sports activities, and traveling. She has driven to Alaska twice, traveled to Canada, Washington, California, and Oregon. She’s in the process of planning a trip to the Grand Canyon.

So what’s next for her nursing career?

“I see myself celebrating 40 years. I love the patients and my team and I want to keep at it.”

Latest Stories

Filter from

July 28, 2021 Philanthropy builds a support for moms in substance use crisis Substance use disorder (SUD) does not discriminate. People of all races, cultures and s... July 28, 2021 Christmas in July, dozens of cards, texts & prayers keep patient positive She’s a schoolteacher who lights up a room with her smile. She doesn’t want cancer to s... July 27, 2021 Let’s “produce” hope; Hoosiers have greater access to fresh food If you’d gather about 9,000 IU Health LifeLine helicopters or stack 14 Lucas Oil Stadiu... July 27, 2021 Doctor’s excellence in care recognized for quality improvement, patient safety Dr. Kelly Kasper, OB/GYN was recently recognized for her commitment to patient care and... July 27, 2021 Rural surgical fellowship could benefit the community and world Faced with a problem challenging their peers across the nation, leaders at Indiana Univ... July 26, 2021 IU Health funding secures job opportunities for Jay County high school seniors Five Jay County Jr./Sr. High School students spent their summer working as paid industr... July 26, 2021 Child Life Program speaks pediatric patients’ language When nine-year-old Joe Smith* was rushed to Indiana University Health Arnett Hospital a... July 26, 2021 Philanthropy helps Monroe County residents in crisis stride forward In a mental health or substance use crisis, there are limited options for people to get... July 23, 2021 A quicker treatment for prostate cancer Prostate cancer is the most common non-skin cancer of men in the United States with aro... July 23, 2021 Totes, t-shirts, tapestries: This artist finds healing through her work IU Health CompleteLife is seeking entries for the Fourth Annual Art Show. This year’s t... July 22, 2021 Teresa the Trauma Outreach Coordinator Teresa Williams is someone that takes “using our heads'' to the next level. Not only is... July 22, 2021 Message is written on mini van: ‘My dad is in need of a kidney’ Steve Sheckles knows all too well about kidney disease – four of his five siblings have... July 21, 2021 Grandmother, ‘Mi-Mi,’ completes 60th treatment for colon cancer It wasn’t until Katherine “Katie” Dailey’s appendix burst that she found out she has ca... July 19, 2021 Little bugs pack a big bite: Understanding Lyme disease As families spend more time outside, we cannot forget about all the bugs outside that c... July 18, 2021 New palliative care chaplain: ‘I find deep meaning in what I do’ She didn’t just wake up one day and decide to become a chaplain. Jodi Powers’ life has ... July 15, 2021 This nurse is a ‘people person’ – from patient care to wedding planning On weekdays, she works in the basement of IU Health University Hospital. Weekends are s... July 12, 2021 When life is on the line: Crewmembers training for critical care Five LifeLine crewmembers are preparing to finish up a year of intense training. These ... July 08, 2021 Nurse, mother of three, started career cleaning hospital rooms She knows what it’s like to be versatile. Tamara Shropshire has worn several hats at IU... July 08, 2021 Small ball offers big relief for infusion patients It’s smaller than a tennis ball, but this “therapy” packs a powerful punch for infusion... July 07, 2021 IU Health urologist offers comprehensive care for male reproductive health Unlike women, men don’t typically see a doctor on a regular basis for their reproductiv... July 05, 2021 Get Back on Track With Preventive Care As people begin returning to activities impacted by the pandemic, it’s a good time to g... July 01, 2021 From Germany with Love -Patient meets her Husband as an Exchange Student In true fairy tale fashion, Anika MacDonald lives a love story that started some 20 yea... June 28, 2021 Throwing injuries common during sports As our attention is drawn again to the baseball and softball diamonds where the success... June 24, 2021 Growing through grief, one charm at a time “I wanted to make grief a little lighter for those who have lost a loved one,” explaine... June 24, 2021 Doctor’s Passion: Caring for LGBTQ+ Patients, Educating Health Care Community By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org When Dr. Hannah Lock... June 24, 2021 Q2 2021 Quarterly Report: Mosaic Center for Work, Life and Learning to provide job training and jobs for Hoosiers Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... June 23, 2021 The right care at the right time Surgical Trauma Nurse Jhoan “JoJo” Perez-Ordenana begins her shifts the same way. Befor... June 23, 2021 Beating the odds Ashley Miller doesn’t remember the wreck. It happened two days after high school gra... June 23, 2021 Rev gets back on track Get ready to start your engines! The IU Health Foundation signature event Rev, hosted a... June 23, 2021 Father Celebrates 50th Birthday by Receiving Five Transplanted Organs By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org In some ways, Philli... June 22, 2021 Accident victim grateful to be standing on his own two feet “I’m here for hope.” That’s what Vimal Patel told the team at IU Health Methodist Hos... June 21, 2021 Coordination is Key to Reducing Pancreatitis Patient Hospitalizations By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org On any given day, Kat... June 21, 2021 Boston Resident Welcomed by IU Health Transplant Team It was 2015 when a Medevac transported Benjamin “Ben” Ruback from his home state of Mas... June 20, 2021 After Five Decades, Esteemed Gastroenterologist Retires from IU Health By IU Health Senior Journalist, TJ Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org There’s a recurrent th... June 18, 2021 Nurse known for her calming effect on transplant patients After 40 years working with transplant patients, Susan Young is known for soothing word... June 16, 2021 With every transplant, nurse’s family grew a little bigger After a 40-year career, Kim Fox is retiring from Methodist, but she will carry her pati... June 15, 2021 Two months post transplant, patient runs Mini Marathon She told her nurses she would do it, and she did. Adrienne Du Rant completed a goal – t... June 13, 2021 Nurse among first to start transplant unit 40 years ago When IU Health started its transplant program 40 years ago, a group of nurses were trai... June 10, 2021 Poison center nurse answers the call – toddlers to adults in distress As a nurse in the Indiana Poison Center at IU Health Methodist Hospital, Brandy Thacker... June 08, 2021 Hospital chaplain: ‘Drums are my happy place. They are my sanity saver’ On any given day IU Health Methodist Hospital chaplain Paul Goodenough can be at the be... June 04, 2021 Mother of two, diagnosed with leukemia is ‘Aiken for a cure’ Chelsea Aiken is 31 and has undergone numerous procedures including two bone marrow tra... June 03, 2021 Riley nurse tests for kidney match for brother Riley Hospital Nurse Samantha “Sam” Schubert is passionate about kidney donation – so p... June 02, 2021 Her journey to IU Health spans more than 800 miles, 48 surgeries She traveled from her home in Louisiana to Indiana, where Dora Carroll said she met a t... June 02, 2021 Runner, kidney donor – Focused on kidney disease awareness His story is heroic. He once saved a woman from a burning car and later donated a kidne... May 28, 2021 Drawn by audacity and people: Dr. Kelvin Lee leads the Cancer Center Kelvin Lee, MD, believes there’s a pretty direct line from “that’s crazy” to hope. Dr.... May 27, 2021 Weathering the storm On Aug. 8, 2020, Nasrin Hepfer received a phone call she’ll never forget. “It was the p... May 26, 2021 IU Health team members win “The Lynda” for their compassionate care Five IU Health team members around the state have won the Lynda A. Merriman Award for C... May 26, 2021 IU Health COVID-19 Data IU Health is committed to being a trusted source of information for the public during t... May 25, 2021 They rescued her Pets; Patient Says they saved her Life too She was at a low point and ended up in ER. The only thing she had on her mind when she ... May 24, 2021 Couple with cancer makes gift to express their gratitude Not many people say the day they met their oncologist to hear about cancer treatment wa... May 24, 2021 Two perspectives, one sentiment: thanks The handwritten letter that came across the desk of IU Health President and CEO Dennis ... May 24, 2021 Joe Schwarz legacy and story on display at cancer center Sixteen months after the grand opening of the IU Health Joe and Shelly Schwarz Cancer C... May 23, 2021 Kidney donor, recipient meet for first time Two women, who live in the same community, met for the first time after one became a no... May 21, 2021 Child Life specialists save the day When the O’Hern family drives by IU Health Arnett Hospital, five-year old Mimi will wav... May 21, 2021 Fathers-sons make dynamic duos for IU Health facilities team They work as a team – often behind the scenes. Although they may not be in the spotligh... May 18, 2021 Pancreatic cancer patient: Music is part of his life He’s played piano since the age of three. So when Wesley Tedrow learned that music ther... May 17, 2021 'Able to do what I love': Teen dances again after hip surgery Zoe York, 17, suffered a hip injury that threatened to sideline her from doing the spor... May 17, 2021 North Split closure may impact travel to IU Health facilities in Indianapolis Travel in downtown Indianapolis will look different for the next 18 months because the ... May 11, 2021 Daughter’s gift to her mother: A gift of life When her mother needed a liver transplant, Jessica Goss only had one issue – was she a ... May 09, 2021 Son donated liver to his mom: ‘She’s always been there for me’ When Ruth Swanson’s liver began to fail, it was her son who became her living organ don... May 06, 2021 Should I Get the COVID-19 Vaccine? 6 Things to Consider The COVID-19 vaccine is an important decision for many Hoosiers. You may have questions... May 04, 2021 IU Health chaplain says faith, informed by science, led him to get the vaccine As an African-American, Joe Colquitt understands the hesitancy some people feel about t... April 30, 2021 What does Wonder Woman do when she loses her sidekick? She starts a grief support group. Amanda Rardon, RN, is the clinical operations manager of trauma and emergency services ... April 29, 2021 Tonsil Cancer Removed by Robotic Procedure By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org She thought she had ... April 27, 2021 Intensive care nurse first IU Health patient to donate two organs She first donated a kidney then two years later Stephanie Kroot donated a portion of he... April 26, 2021 Breaking down barriers Imagine trying to secure your vaccine for a public health crisis but not being able bec... April 24, 2021 IU Health White Memorial adds VeinViewer IU Health White Memorial Hospital now has a second VeinViewer® Vision2 thanks to a $14,... April 23, 2021 Dedicated hospital employee quietly works behind the scenes He doesn’t wear a white coat, or scrubs, but this dedicated hospital worker often recei... April 22, 2021 Friends in need pay it forward. The Lunsfords and Rosemas have been friends for decades. They traveled together to Irel... April 22, 2021 Learning to live the values. Kevin Bockus’ call to chaplaincy came in the form of a siren. One Sunday morning, Kevi... April 21, 2021 The path to improved health. When Jennifer King started as an occupational therapy assistant at IU Health Frankfort ... April 21, 2021 Starting at birth: addressing racial inequity in healthcare through Cradle Indianapolis. According to the Indiana Department of Health, Indiana’s average infant mortality rate ... April 21, 2021 Vaccinating others helps heal the trauma of the past year for this nurse Erika Breivogel on administering her first COVID shot: “I had the biggest smile under m... April 20, 2021 Video: Neurosurgeon brings minimally invasive approach to treating seizures Dylan Pierce was 25 years old when he started having focal seizures with impaired aware... April 20, 2021 Video: New treatment gives hope, time to patients with glioblastoma Chris Bachmann is a patient battling an aggressive and cancerous brain tumor known as g... April 19, 2021 Congregations connect with patients for ongoing care Through collaboration with IU Health and faith-based communities, a Congregation Care N... April 14, 2021 Diabetes prevention program helped patient break the cycle She tried and she tried but she couldn’t seem to get in shape. When Cheryl Peglow learn... April 13, 2021 Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine paused - Your questions answered Update - Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause ends On April 23, the Centers for Disease Con... April 13, 2021 COVID delayed mammograms: doctors say, ‘Get back on track’ Many things were put on hold when pandemic turned to panic. Now, doctors remind patient... April 12, 2021 Clinical medicine and research makes this transplant patient among the first IU Health has a long history as one of the top transplant programs in the country. Now,... April 11, 2021 Addiction Treatment When It’s Needed Most: Emergency medicine physician leads life-saving program at IU Health West Hospital For individuals with opioid addiction and at risk of repeat overdoses, IU Health West H... April 07, 2021 Husband donates kidney to wife: ‘This is a highlight. It’s worth it’ April is National Donate Life Month and today is Living Donor Day – a time to celebrate... April 07, 2021 On a terrible day, Center gives victims hope Nicole Perkins meets people on the worst days of their lives. As a forensic nurse exami... April 07, 2021 Philanthropy could help fund more Centers of Hope Providing emergency services for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, child ab... April 07, 2021 10 Myths about Sexual Assault April is Sexual Assault Awareness and Prevention Month. To help Hoosiers learn more abo... April 06, 2021 A true giver at heart Saving lives—that’s the main concern for the IU Health Bloomington Hospital Emergency... April 05, 2021 Doctor flies for a cause that has paws His career is in medicine, but this doctor extends his caring spirit outside the hospit... April 04, 2021 Sepsis invaded nurse’s body, but not her determination It started with a persistent cough. In no time at all, Alixandra “Alix” Gerringer was a... April 02, 2021 Fighting as a community In just over 100 days, the IU Health South Central Region has given out over 60,000 COV... April 01, 2021 A success story thanks to support from the team Katelyn Cole believes her success is from the team that supported her. “My life was r... March 31, 2021 Q1 2021 Quarterly Report: The year that changed the way we give. Crystal Hinson Miller, chief philanthropy officer for Indiana University Health and pre... March 31, 2021 The next new shot: Help for patients diagnosed with HIV For years, people diagnosed with HIV have taken a steady regiment of oral medication. N... March 29, 2021 Never Too Young - Here’s how this 22-year-old is Fighting Stage 4 Colon Cancer By IU Health Senior Journalist, T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org She’s 22. She was 21... March 29, 2021 Program brings smiles to kids’ faces one bear at a time Patricia Harris, clinical operations manager for IU Health Tipton Hospital’s Surgical S... March 28, 2021 Rare Disease Treated at IU Health; Can Take Years to Diagnose By IU Health Senior Journalist T.J. Banes, tfender1@iuhealth.org At first, there were ... March 24, 2021 Diagnosis: Hodgkin’s lymphoma - She spent her birthday in the hospital At first she thought she had allergies, and then Christine Kirk heard the word, “cancer... March 22, 2021 Patient moved to Indy for treatment of multiple myeloma By the time she got her diagnosis and became a patient of IU Health, Irene Johnson was ... March 21, 2021 Memorial & meditation: Doctor says ‘It is from the intensity of the loss we felt’ Deep sadness, feelings of helplessness, and overwhelming anxiety of what’s to come - me... March 18, 2021 Social worker, nurse – Dynamic duo in critical care They are a team, and when it comes to caring for the sickest patients, these two go abo... March 18, 2021 Grant expands IU Health virtual behavioral health services to rural counties A highly regarded IU Health virtual behavioral health program has received $1.2 million...