Texas and New Mexico Hospice Organization (TNMHO) has selected Angela Mancha as the recipient of its Charley Wasson Hospice Advocate Award. The 2021 awards were received at the TNMHO annual convention awards ceremony on 8/1/2021.
The Charley Wasson* Hospice Advocate Award recognizes individuals who have served as either a hospice professional or volunteer for no less than three years. Individuals should be nominated for their 1) commitment to the core values of hospice, 2) unique approach to providing and extending hospice services, and 3) exhibits professional and personal development during their service to the hospice mission.
Joseph Brickner, Sherry Nelson-Veeder and Carrie Martinez nominated Andrea Cannon. The following was the nomination write up about Angela Mancha:
If anyone can lay claim to the American dream, it is Angela Mancha. Born in a small South Texas town to immigrant parents seeking a better life, Angela has emerged as a talented, caring, versatile nurse who has found her calling in hospice leadership and compassionate care for patients and families throughout San Antonio.
“I am a first-generation high school graduate, recipient of a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and currently a student working on my Master’s of Science in Nursing,” says Angela, a talented nurse who has risen through the specialties and ranks of nursing to oversee compassionate, patient-centered care in one of San Antonio’s newest inpatient hospice units. “I will be forever grateful to my parents for the sacrifices they made, sacrifices that created the foundation that has allowed me to become the woman, mother, wife, and nurse that I am today.”
What is most striking about Angela’s career is the hard-won success she accomplished by accepting and managing challenges head-on during one of the most demanding and difficult years to ever face the US healthcare system. In 2019, she jumped at the opportunity to manage and lead the soon-to-open the VITAS Inpatient Unit at Villa Rosa in San Antonio. She knew her experience as an intensive care nurse, hospice inpatient nurse, charge nurse, and home hospice nurse was a rich and valuable asset; but little did she know how valuable that experience would be as the next 18 months unfolded.
Angela’s Career Path
From an early age, Angela was influenced by her Latin culture and background, especially its emphasis on “caring for our own” through all stage of life. “As a young woman, I learned that I had a passion for caring for and helping my family. Being responsible at a young age for the care of my elders was my first encounter with end-of-life care,” she explains. “I was quickly drawn to serving others and knew that this was my calling in life.”
At age 21, she graduated from nursing school and began gaining experience in several nursing specialties. During her early years as an intensive care nurse, she realized that the bulk of her professional life was spent caring for patients who were suffering and dying. “These experiences allowed me to witness firsthand a completely new side of nursing, creating a yearning to care for patients who were transitioning to comfort care,” she says. “Words cannot describe the reward that followed by contributing to a natural and pain-free death while also being able to support families through these extremely difficult and trying times.”
She moved from the intensive care unit into a role as a part-time and then full-time VITAS hospice nurse, including a stint in a VITAS inpatient hospice unit (IPU) in San Antonio. Aided by the IPU experience and additional education, she became a VITAS charge nurse in 2018, and added to her skillset the training of fellow nurses. In 2019, she began managing a hospice home team, where she tackled difficult cases head-on and infused her work and philosophy with perseverance, a commitment to know and understand her staff members and their responsibilities, and a priority of meeting and remaining available to the patients and families her team cared for.
“When engaging with families through these trying times, I let them know that they are just as important as the patients in our facilities, and I treat them with the same level of care and respect I would treat my own family,” she says. “I take pride in the care that my staff and I provide, and I strive to continue supporting our patients and families through these difficult experiences in life.”
In late 2019, she returned to her inpatient hospice roots and accepted a role as manager of a new VITAS IPU in San Antonio. Driven by a goal of providing excellent leadership for her staff, she and her team immediately encountered the COVID-19 pandemic.
Her planned IPU, which originally involved a transition from an old facility into a new unit, quickly became a unit for COVID-19 patients. In the same tumultuous period, she learned she was pregnant. Her obstetrician advised her to take time off, “but my passion for my staff, my patients, and their families did not allow me to leave,” she says. She instead turned her personal health situation into an opportunity to become an expert and advocate for the ever-changing safety protocols, staffing issues, equipment needs, and patient-to-nurse ratios linked to COVID-19. In the face of new and ongoing visitation restrictions, she and her team found ways to connect patients and families via FaceTime, Zoom and other virtual platforms. She worked long hours to stay updated on ever-changing COVID-19 policies, including working the floor and supporting her staff when she was needed. Her mantra soon became: “Safety for all, and no one dies alone.”
In retrospect, she observes: “At a young age, my parents instilled in me the philosophy that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible. I found strength that I did not know I had. I grew as a leader. I saw teamwork like never before. We cried and laughed, and at the end of it, my staff and I did it, and I could not feel prouder of such a great team.”
The result: The new IPU opened in 2020, the transformed COVID-19 unit closed in 2020 as well, and Angela gave birth, too, to her second child.
Then February’s five-day snowstorm in San Antonio presented more challenges that activated the VITAS emergency preparedness plan. Angela and her dedicated, compassionate team evacuated patients from their IPU (which had no electricity and water at the time) to a different facility, and then stayed on to provide 24-hour bedside care until the storm’s aftermath resolved.
“I know in my heart that this is what I was meant to do,” Angela says. “I feel I have accomplished a lot in this short time, but nothing would have been possible without the leaders and team in my life. My contribution to hospice is just the beginning of what I have to give. I will dedicate my life to serving others, one step, one breath, one beat at a time. My goal is to keep educating patients, families, and communities about hospice care, especially in the rural, poverty-stricken communities where I grew up. This is just the beginning, because with hard work and dedication, anything is possible.”