Nurses’ Week was May 6 – 12

During Nurses Week, we spotlighted a few of our long-term nurses, 17+ years with VNA, to recognize them for their hard work and devotion to our community. Nurses make a difference in the lives of our community patients. We celebrate and recognize you for your dedication and sacrifices. Thank you!

Barbara Aoki-Okamura

Barbara Aoki-Okamura is one of our Community Services’ nurses and has been with VNA since 2006. She was a bit apprehensive about becoming a nurse. The site of blood made her feel a bit faint… Barbara majored in Biology at Chapman University and chose to go into nursing after one of her four sisters suggested it. “My sisters never failed me with advice and continue to be there for me now,” says Barbara. She heard of VNA through her son, Tanner’s, friend’s grandmother and pursed her career in Community Services. Barbara works with students at Rancho Cielo and Cherish Receiving Center. She says, “All of the kids I work with each week make an impact on me which makes my job so interesting, challenging, and rewarding. I feel each day teaches me more and more about myself and how I can become a better, more effective person for all individuals that I interact with. It’s been a blessing to work at VNA as I’ve been given the opportunity to be faced with life lessons each day.”

Carla Rankin

Carla Rankin has been a Community Services nurse with VNA since 2005. She graduated from UC Berkeley with a BA in Biology and CSU Sacramento with a BSN in Nursing. “Nursing was the perfect union of my love of Biology and people,” Carla says. Her father has been an inspiration and credits him for her prolonged career in nursing. Carla said, “I always remember my father exclaiming, “you have their (patients’) lives in your hands!” That refrain has been a driving force throughout my 39 years of nursing. The relationship between nurse and client is sacred ground. There are few other professions where intimacy and trust are so rapidly and crucially operative in a relationship. Carla works with High School at risk youth with our Community Service department. “Spending time with students, creating a channel of trust, and respecting the student’s boundaries is of upmost importance. The power of connection and developed relations can help heal. This is the unique and powerful impact of nursing!” Carla says.

Maura Lee

Maura Lee was born and raised on the Monterey Peninsula and has lived in this area most of her life. She attended San Francisco State University and received a BA in English. Her original plan was to teach English to foreign students and travel. A church friend talked her about the nursing career and “sold it” to her. She first received her CNA certification and then eventually got accepted in the nursing program at Maurine Church Coburn School of Nursing. Maura graduated from the program in 1992 and her first job was at Natividad Medical Center in the nursery. She did that for almost a year and then got a job with Hospice of the Central Coast during the summer of 1993 when Hospice of the Central Coast was a part of CCVNA. Maura chose the nursing field rather than teaching because, she felt it was a more stable type of career than teaching, and so, she decided to pursue nursing rather than continue with getting a MA in English and working on a teaching credential. Almost 29 years later, she has never regretted her decision. She started at VNA again with the Intake department in August 2004 and has been with the department ever since. A patient that has made the most impact on her was her first Hospice patient who was an oncology patient that lived with her spouse in Carmel. She taught Maura that “in the end, love is all we need and have. It is the legacy that we leave to others when we are gone.” Maura hopes that someday when it is her time to go, that “love is the legacy” that she will be remembered for.

Donna Trementozzi

Donna Trementozzi was raised in the Salinas Valley. “I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a nurse! When I was little, I would tell everyone that I was going to help people by becoming a nurse,” says Donna. She graduated from Fresno State with a BSN. Donna started her career in Fresno for 7 years doing pediatrics and home care. Growing up, Donna always had a love for kids, especially infants. Donna has been a pediatric nurse for over 30 years and a NICU nurse for 7 years, as well as home care. She moved back to Salinas when her kids were little, but could only work part-time. Donna was hired at VNA in 1994 when VNA had a pediatric home care and hospice care program. Then in 1998, she took a leave of absence to be a foster parent and grow her family. She and her husband adopted two kids and then from there took care of medically fragile kids through Monterey County. Donna started working with The Cherish Receiving Center as a nurse to do health screens on all kids that came into protective custody and is still there today. Donna says, “One story that has stayed with me was caring for a terminally ill infant named “AMY.” I still remember my first visit to their home. When I knocked on the door of their home, they opened the door and Amy’s Mom was holding her. Amy reached out her arms to me to hold her. I put my arms out and she laid her head on my shoulder and hugged me as if to say, thank God you are here. I still have a relationship with this family today.” Donna and her husband continue to be active in the foster care community and teach classes through Hartnell to new perspective foster families.

Andrea Zoodsma

Andrea Zoodsma has been with VNA since 2000. When it came to deciding what Andrea wanted to do as a career, she could not decide at first between becoming a teacher, like her parents, or a nurse. Her love for people and science drew her into the nursing field to help individuals and make a difference. Andrea began her career with VNA in Extended Services and our Flu Program. When Andrea administers vaccines, she asks her patient, as a distraction, to think of their favorite color. “In 2020, I administered vaccines at VNA Adult Day Center, which was for people with memory loss or early dementia. While vaccinating one of our clients, I told him to think about his favorite color. After vaccination, I asked him what his favorite color was, he did not miss a beat and told me blond,” Andrea said. Her passion for international travel has inspired the opening of VNA’s International Immunization Program. This program is the only travel clinic of its kind in our area and is a valuable asset to Monterey County.