After graduating from UT-Houston Health Science Center with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, Olivia spent the majority of her nursing career in critical care, specifically ICU/CCU with an emphasis in cardiac care. She left the hospital world in 2010 to join the Visiting Nurse Association Hospice and has been with the Visiting Nurse Association since that time as a field nurse, case manager, branch manager in Collin County, and now as the vice president and chief nursing officer for Visiting Nurse Association. Hospice care truly encompasses everything Olivia loves about nursing from critical thinking to direct patient care, family support and collaboration with many different disciplines and physicians. The Visiting Nurse Association embodies what it means to care for people well and provide meaning, expertise and support at the end of life, and this is Olivia’s passion.
Dr. Newcomer earned her medical degree at UT Southwestern Medical School and completed a residency in internal medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas.
Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine in hospice and palliative medicine, she joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 2016.
Dr. Newcomer serves as the Hospice Rotation Organizer for UT Southwestern and the Clinical Epidemiology Coordinator and Lecturer for the UT Southwestern Palliative Care and Geriatric Fellowship. She is a member of several professional organizations, including the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine, the Christian Medical and Dental Association, and the Dallas County Medical Society.
She is also the Medical Director of Adult and Pediatric Hospice for the Visiting Nurse Association of Texas.
Her research and teaching interests include hospice and palliative medicine, especially topical therapies for pain control and aligning goals of care with patients’ heart defibrillator status. She has delivered several invited lectures and contributed to the book Pain Management for Clinicians.
Dr. Kristina Hernandez attended medical school at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences where she met her soon to be husband, Dr. Miguel Hernandez. They decided the crazy ice and snow storms were too much for them after studying by candlelight when the electricity went off, so high-tailed it to the dessert in Arizona for residency, where they both became Chief residents. Family brought them to Dallas to practice medicine and they couldn’t be happier to call Texas home and raise their three wonderful children and two dogs. They continue to practice together in the post-acute care world, caring for patients that are coming out of the hospital. Dr. Hernandez still enjoys filling shifts at Baylor hospital. In her spare time (if there’s ever a rare moment), she attempts to master a new skill such as painting, installing laminate floors, and hanging lights.
Born and raised in the north suburbs of Chicago, Dr. Hicks attended New Trier High School and then went north to McGill University in Montreal where she received a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and religious studies. Tired of the cold weather, she followed her parents and sister to Arizona where she attended medical school at the Arizona College of Osteopathic Medicine and received her Doctor of Osteopathy degree in 2008. She returned to the Windy City for residency in emergency medicine and graduated in 2012. While in residency, she maintained interests in geriatric medicine, hospice and palliative care, and physician well-being. Dr. Hicks has worked in both rural Arizona and urban Texas, specifically Dallas. She has been and continues to be an attending physician in the emergency room at Dallas Regional Medical Center since 2014. She served as associate medical director and then medical director of the emergency department from 2017-2022. In early 2023 she was thrilled to be hired as an Associate Medical Director at the Visiting Nurse Association where she manages hospice patients in the Kaufman County. When she isn’t working, she enjoys traveling, spending time with her husband Justin and daughter Sofie, and walking their Great Dane Millie.
Specializing in Internal Medicine at Imperial Care Internal Medicine in Sherman, Dr. Islam joins the VNA Collin County team. As a graduate of Rawalpindi Medical College in Pakistan who completed her Internal Medicine residency at Michigan State University and Kansas University, she has been practicing medicine since 2002. Her previous roles included Skilled Care Director at several nursing homes, Director of Palliative Care at Wilson N. Jones Hospital in Sherman, and Associate Medical Director for Heart to Heart Hospice in Grayson County. She has a love for senior care and a heart for hospice that began when she became a hospice volunteer in Canada in 1995.
Lainie Caldwell joined the Visiting Nurse Association in 2006 as an ESU nurse and has continued to grow her professional career with the organization for over a decade. Prior to joining the Visiting Nurse Association, Lainie received her Bachelor of Science in nursing at Texas Woman’s University. She worked for more than 10 years in oncology nursing in the hospital. Lainie wanted more one-on-one time with patients and families and remembered her nursing school clinical rotation at the Visiting Nurse Association, which drove her to pursue her interest in home care where patients can die with dignity and independence. Lainie has grown at Visiting Nurse Association as a field nurse, case manager, branch manager and now managing director. Lainie has a loving and supportive husband John, and two teenagers, Sydney and Noah. They live in McKinney with her favorite dog Bentley.
John Caldwell, APRN, M.S., FNP-C is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner since 2012. His specialties include ICU, emergency medicine, and in-home supportive care. John is a veteran of the US Army in the 82nd Airborne Division and lives in McKinney with his wife, two children, and their dog, Bentley. John enjoys flyfishing and traveling to Colorado in his spare time.
Michelle Donnell, managing director for the Visiting Nurse Association started her nursing career working as an emergency room nurse in 2010. After her mother received hospice care from a team of VNA Hospice workers, she quickly found that her true calling as a nurse was providing hospice care with the Visiting Nurse Association. She began working with the same Visiting Nurse Association team as a case manager in the Visiting Nurse Association’s East Texas office in 2012. She has served as the manager for the Kaufman and Dallas teams and now serves as the managing director for the southern region of the Visiting Nurse Association Michelle and her teams strive to provide a holistic approach to caring for every patient and their family, understanding that hospice is not only about the patient but the entire family. Michelle’s goal in leading teams is to ensure that the quality care that she received as a family member during that trying time is the same care that is provided under her watch.
Sarah Harris joined the Visiting Nurse Association in August of 2012 as a community liaison. Before taking the role as director, Sarah served as the marketing manager. She transitioned into the director of marketing role in June of 2018, bringing with her 21 years of marketing experience, 10 of which are in health care. Sarah is driven by a passion for helping seniors in need and promoting dignity and grace at the end of life. Sarah lives in Collin County with her husband, Craig, and two teenage daughters, Madeline and Ally. They enjoy spending their free time as a family participating in horse shows, cheer competitions and swim meets.
Nicole joined VNA Hospice in March of 2020 as a Medical Social Worker. She has worked in many areas of social work but found her calling with her very first hospice position years ago. She is a born social worker, who believes meeting patients where they are and help by promoting the best quality of life. She has a passion for helping others and is willing to work tirelessly to ensure that patients have what they need. Nicole has been married to her high school sweetheart for 23 years. They have one daughter and two beautiful grandchildren.
Laura Kaiser, LMSW, ACHP-SW began working as the VNA hospice volunteer manager position two years ago after starting with VNA in 2016 working as a social worker. Laura earned her Master of Social Work at the University of Kansas and her social work career spans four decades. While she started in State social services and public health, hospice was a perfect match for her love of community-based work and end-of-life care. Laura first learned about hospice volunteering when she volunteered in the mid 1980’s with the local hospice. Laura’s hospice career of 21 years has allowed her the chance to serve as a social worker for both adult and pediatric patients, work at an inpatient hospice, work as a family services manager, a bereavement coordinator and as a volunteer manager. She has worked in hospices in Lawrence, KS, Houston, and Indianapolis before coming to Dallas to be in a warmer climate and closer to family.
Laura’s love for volunteerism began with a hospice volunteer program. One of the volunteers Laura worked with was the wife and former nurse of the doctor who delivered her. This special lady would make herself available to any patient including sometimes staying all night with a patient to allow the family caregiver a chance for a full night’s sleep. Laura believes the importance of volunteers in hospice is one of the ways that make hospice a unique and personal experience.
Sarah Miles joined the Visiting Nurse Association in 2009 as a hospice and home care case manager. Her attention to detail and desire to “always do it right” made her the ideal candidate for managing the Clinical Education Department in 2017. She was chosen to lead the Visiting Nurse Association’s new Care Choices Palliative Care Program in 2018, breaking new ground in offering compassionate and supportive care for those with terminal illnesses who are still seeking aggressive therapies. Most recently, she was promoted to director of quality, where her responsibilities include continued oversight of the education and palliative programs. Sarah is dedicated to ensuring the Visiting Nurse Association remains compliant with all regulatory requirements, while also developing programs to promote overall clinical quality and client satisfaction. She considers Visiting Nurse Association her “forever home” and considers it a privilege to serve our most vulnerable population as a member of the Visiting Nurse Association.
Sonya joined the Visiting Nurse Association team in 2017 as a Client Intake Clerk. Sonya developed relationships with her teammates and quickly learned her new role. As Sonya mastered her role, she earned the respect of her peers and the gained the confidence of her Manager, as she demonstrated leadership qualities found to be worthy of promotion. In 2018, Sonya was promoted to Manager of Intake, Crisis Care and Back Office Operations. In her new role, Sonya continued to support the Client Intake team and, additionally, added value to the organization by developing process improvements that would best service VNA’s great assets, our patients. As a Manager, Sonya was an effective leader of her team, for the greater good of VNA. In 2020, Sonya was promoted to Director of Intake, Crisis Care and Back Office Operations. Sonya is a Licensed Vocational Nurse. As a nurse, some of Sonya’s greatest qualities include the compassion and energy that she brings to “get it right” for the patients and families that VNA serves. Sonya completed her nursing education at Texarkana College, in Texarkana, TX, and has been a Licensed Vocational Nurse since 2009. Sonya’s healthcare and nursing experience includes Medical/Surgical, Home Health, Geriatric Care, Memory Care and Hospice. Over the course of her professional experience, Sonya’s greatest joy is bringing quality care and smiles to the faces of her patients and their families. Sonya’s personal greatest joys are her two children and her two grandchildren.
A list of surrounding Meals on Wheels locations outside of Dallas County are provided below. Additional Meals on Wheels locations may also be found by visiting Mealsonwheelsamerica.org.
Our care team is specially trained and certified to care for patients with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Our goal is to ensure our patients have pain control, are comfortable and safe, helping to reduce trips to the emergency room or hospital. Hospice care can also provide a great support to loved ones and caregivers.
VNA manages complex patients with multiple contributing conditions such as renal failure, pulmonary disease, etc. Our symptom management experts help patients with symptoms often found in end-stage heart disease such as chest pain, shortness of breath, edema (swelling), and blood pressure concerns. Our experienced RNs can also manage supportive intravenous cardiac medications, as well as infusion lines and complex oxygen needs.
Your VNA care team is trained to provide the care and education needed for patients and families facing difficult treatment decisions. In coordination with your physician and our hospice physicians, our team will address any treatment-related symptoms, as well as complications that may arise from stopping treatment. To ensure symptoms are treated quickly, your team will work with specialized pharmacists to have the necessary medications delivered right to your home.
Music has been determined to be a highly effective therapeutic tool for healing and wellness. It can help remind patients of cherished memories, alleviate pain, promote relaxation and enhance one’s quality of life. Each music therapy session is individualized to fit the patient’s requirements. Depending on the needs and abilities of the patient, the therapy may involve composing a new song, singing old favorites or even improvising new music with an instrument.
Music is used as a tool to facilitate wellness in a target area such as mental, physical, spiritual, emotional or cognitive functioning.
Pets have a unique way of providing companionship and unconditional love for people. They can help reduce anxiety, stress, depression and loneliness that can come with facing a terminal illness. When appropriate, pet therapy also promotes active movement to help improve overall range of motion and strength of our patients. Pet therapists and the animals we work with are all specially trained and certified to provide safe companionship as part of a care plan.
Bereavement is the process of coping with grief and loss. Feelings of grief and loss can happen at any time during the course of facing an illness. Dealing with personal grief is unique to each person. Having experienced, trained professionals to help you navigate change and loss can help establish a foundation of healthy grieving. Our bereavement team may visit you in person, reach out to you over the phone, or host group events and activities.
VNA SafeHaven is a free grief support program in Denton offering emotional support to families with children and teens who have experienced loss through the death of someone significant in their lives. VNA SafeHaven is open to any child ages 5 to 18 and their family who have experienced the death of a loved one. Adult professionals and highly trained, caring volunteers lead small groups of children of similar age in age-appropriate activities and discussions on grief and coping skills.