Texas and New Mexico Hospice Organization (TNMHO) has selected Gail Meyer 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.

Olivia Rogers, RN, CHPN, Chief Nursing Officer at VNA wrote the following nomination:

It is my great pleasure to nominate Gail Meyer, who has been with VNA since 1992, when she started out PRN as a field social worker. Through the years, Gail has worked as a full-time social worker in many different areas that we serve, always willing to go where the need was, not only for VNA, but for our patients and families. Gail is one of a much-esteemed group of a few social workers at VNA who are preparing for retirement after many years, leaving a legacy of excellent wholistic, truly interdisciplinary hospice care at VNA.

She is retiring this summer after devoting her entire professional career to VNA; July will be 29 years. It is difficult to overstate the contributions Gail has had to VNA’s care, but also to the industry as a whole. She truly embodies what it means to provide support, compassion, empathy and professionalism to our patients and their families. Working with Gail in the field for several years when I was an RN Case Manager and Gail was the social worker, I was able to experience firsthand what powerful work the social workers provide; it is so much more than serving as a resource and helping navigate the waters of difficult family dynamics, and it is more than assisting with complicated paperwork that our patients and families need. While she is an expert in all of those things, the skillful art of teasing out of a situation what the real need is or what the root of the issue is actually Gail’s unique gift. She excels at talking to families and patients with patience, gentleness, dignity and care. Complex grief, careful guidance with the bereavement needs of children and grandchildren of the dying, seeing through the “noise” of a situation to the heart of the matter is a skill that few possess with such grace as Gail.

These are but some of the reasons that we made the decision at VNA to promote Gail several years ago to the role of Director of Family Services. In this role, she oversees the social workers, chaplains, volunteer department and bereavement services. In this role, for which she was also the advocate for many years at VNA, she has served to bring to management’s attention her employees’ unique needs, served as an advocate for the unique role of the social worker, and she put into place experienced managers over each department to facilitate professional growth and development, as well as determine best practices. In this way, Gail has been a multiplier; she has taken her gifts and firm belief in comprehensive care, and she has built a large team that now embraces this comprehensive model of the IDT. She has tirelessly advocated for best practices in each of her departments, which we are committedto continuing in her absence. Our organization will forever be changed through Gail’s legacy, but the industry as a whole is elevated when experienced, long-time hospice staff create and develop new best practices and refuse just follow the status quo. This defines Gail as a manager.

Lastly, Gail has been instrumental in two priority areas at VNA, and in the industry: She has been instrumental in promoting diversity and equity at VNA, and she has pushed for beginning anew VNA’s pediatric care program. Gail has been tirelessly committed to learning more about the critical need for diversity training and implementation, as well as the lack of equitable hospice care across our population in Dallas, and she has brought new ideas to the organization and to her teams to better address these ongoing issues. She has also helped to launch the much-needed pediatric program at VNA, called VNA Children’s Haven, after many years of caring for only our adult population. This is the first year of the new program, which was launched in conjunction with a large children’s hospital in Dallas. In fact, VNA was approached for this program due to our reputation for having strong social work and spiritual counseling services, which are a reflection of the work Gail has done at VNA.

I asked Gail what she has enjoyed the most in her long career in hospice. Here is her answer: Each life is unique, and I have learned so much from each patient and family. How special it has been to visit with people, help them work through grief, anger, anxiety, relief, even hope and happiness, and so many other emotions, validating their life stories and the essence of each life. Each life and family are unique, and how fortunate I have been to be a guest in so many homes to share this sacred passage of life with them. Whether poor or rich, black, brown, white, straight, or LGBTQ, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or agnostic, I have strived to treat each person with respect and do my best to ensure that the sanctity of each life was honored by doing my small part to enable the goal of a peaceful death. I have learned so much from each patient and family.

I also asked what her hope is for hospice going into the future:
My hope is that all hospices will provide hospice services as VNA has done with the overriding principals of ethical and compassionate care. My vision is that hospice and palliative care be a continuum of care that will begin earlier in the disease process so each person will receive maximum benefit, and hospice will be provided to more people, especially to underserved communities.