Joyce Nelson didn’t technically work in patient care, but she might as well have. For more than a decade, she’s been a therapist, confidant and friend to countless people who stopped to get their coffee. Or just stopped by. “I took care of that little coffee bar like it was my own house,” Joyce tells us. “I tried to keep it as clean and welcoming as I could.”
It was that and more. And for more than 10 years, patients, visitors and employees at Mayo Clinic's Arizona campus sought her out. Not just for the unique Starbucks recipes Joyce had "tweaked" to make her own, but because they'd come to know that regardless of what life was throwing at them, Joyce could make things better.
Joseph Sirven, M.D., chair of Neurology in Arizona, was one of Joyce's most loyal customers. "No matter what the day had in store for me — whether patients in tough situations, long days, on-call time or difficult conversations with other team members — I knew I'd get my day started right with an amazing beverage delivered with culinary skill and Joyce's secret ingredient: Love," he tells us. "I knew I could get through anything that day."
Another of Joyce's regulars, Connie Clark, a transplant nurse, tells us what makes Joyce so special is that she never played favorites. "Standing in line, you could overhear how she treated everyone — staff and patients — the same way, and like they were the only person in her line," Connie tells us. "She just made you feel good ... She was so sincere with everyone. Patients asked for her."
And when they found her, Joyce tells us she made it her mission to leave them better off than they were when they came into her line. "I've heard so many stories from patients and visitors over the years that have brought me to tears," Joyce tells us. "I couldn't believe some of the situations they were in, so I've just tried to find ways to make things better for them as best I could."
More often than not, she did so with one simple, yet powerful, act of kindness. "Sometimes, you see someone, and you just know they need a hug," Joyce tells us. "So whenever I sensed someone was hurting or having a bad day, I'd wrap them in my arms."
It's that kind of care and compassion for others that Joyce's supervisor, Cynthia Salcido, tells us will be missed now that Joyce has retired from Mayo Clinic. "I'm often asked who will replace Joyce," Cynthia says. "My answer to that is, 'Will anyone ever be able to replace Joyce?' She's just one of those perfect employees who was in the perfect job."
One of Joyce's colleagues, who wishes to remain anonymous so as to not "steal Joyce's thunder," tells us she couldn't agree more. "Anyone can learn to put together a latte or mocha (we might argue that), but I doubt Mayo Clinic will ever have another barista who will be able to put so much love into every cup," she says.
So it came as little surprise when we heard that the retirement party Joyce's co-workers threw for her earlier this month was, according to Cynthia, epic. "There were about 300 people there," Joyce tells us. "It was a really fun party." One that we're told was befitting of someone whose retirement has left a coffee-cup-sized hole in the hearts of those who know her.
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