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2012 Health Care Champions Honoree: Gayla Manary

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Gayla Manary had absolutely no desire to be a hospice nurse. While in school, she had every intention of working in the emergency room.

“Well, here I am 18 years later,” Manary says with a laugh.

Manary has worked the last two years as executive director of Integrity Hospice & Palliative Care, but her journey into hospice care began years ago while working for a long-term care facility.

“They had a home health agency and we started a hospice agency, and I just absolutely loved it,” Manary says of the tug toward hospice work.

“In fact, at one point I was working in the hospital in the ER and I had gone to an interview at a nursing home and then I’d gone to an interview at a hospice agency. I called my grandma and I said, ‘I really hope to get this hospice.’ She said to me, ‘You will. You’ve been called to do this. You’re meant to do it. That’s God’s place for you.’ And it is,” Manary says.

Manary says there are some misconceptions about hospice care. “Hospice is not giving up. It’s about hope and helping people to live better, and sometimes people even live longer on hospice services,” she says.

At Integrity Hospice & Palliative Care, Manary leads a team of hospice professionals, including doctors, nurses, social workers, bereavement counselors and a music therapist. Integrity currently offers hospice services in seven counties, but the company intends to offer hospice care statewide.

Manary says often the biggest challenge her teams face is helping the families cope with the death of a loved one.

“So many times, the patients come to grips with their illness long before the families accept it,” she says, noting she works to bring them together and help through that process.

Manary says going through the loss of her grandfather, who with her grandmother raised her, helps her understand family perspectives.

“I feel like having that experience and being on the other side, which is completely and totally different, really helps me to go on and serve patients in his legacy,” Manary says.

Ultimately, Manary gives credit to the Integrity team for the quality of care provided.

“I am blessed to be their leader, but they are absolutely amazing. They do a wonderful job of taking care of patients and bringing this hospice to fruition. I want them to know how important they are. They’re where the rubber meets the road, for sure,” Manary says.

Click here for full coverage of the 2012 Salute to Health Care.

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