Take time to listen before you act/react. In a hospital setting, I think leaders should be required to have clinical experience. It’s the only way to truly understand what can and can’t be done when it comes to patient care. In today’s healthcare environment, with its reimbursement and practice efficiency challenges, more than ever before leaders need to have a clear understanding of the clinical aspect of the job. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t also understand the business parts of the job. But, because I’ve been a nurse who has worked bedside, I understand what my staff can and can’t do without, as far as supplies, equipment, and materials that help ensure optimal care. It turns out you don’t have to cut corners to save a dollar. If leaders in our profession know what it takes to care for a patient, then they’ll know where the cost-savings are that don’t compromise care.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Grisel Fernandez-Bravo, ARNP, MBA, DNP. Fernandez-Bravo is the CEO of Memorial Hospital Miramar, part of the six-hospital Memorial Healthcare System (MHS) in South Florida. Of Memorial’s six hospitals, three are run by women. The women are collectively leading a team of more than 6,000 employees and volunteers in facilities that see nearly 500,000 patients a year. MHS is one of the largest public healthcare systems (by revenue) in the U.S.
Thank you so much for joining us Grisel. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
Early in my career, I worked as a nurse for for-profit healthcare systems, where everything is about making money and the hospital’s bottom line. As a young nurse, I thought that how all healthcare organizations operated.
When I was hired by Memorial, I was initially surprised they always put the patients and families first, above all else. It was the first time I worked in a situation where patient care is never compromised and it opened my eyes to all that could be accomplished by leaders and teams committed to this type of approach.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading Memorial Hospital Miramar?
Some people are surprised that as CEO I still maintain my “nurse” badge buddy. I’ve even had staffers come up to me thinking it was mistake. But I’m a nurse first and foremost and that’s the role that inspired my career in healthcare. Long before I thought about leading a hospital, I was a nurse and that’s something I’ll always treasure.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Many years ago, I became director of clinical services for a healthcare management company and thought it would be great idea to share an office with my husband. I envisioned us carpooling, having lunch together, and sharing the entire experience.
You can probably guess where this story is going. Instead of the professional paradise I imagined, it was awful. We argued about everything and being together 24/7? The lesson learned was working that closely with someone, even someone you love, can and does lead to divorce.
What do you think makes Memorial Healthcare System stand out? Can you share a story?
It’s our culture of patient and family-centered care, which should be common, but isn’t. It’s not only led to an outstanding environment for those who trust us with their health, but it attracts compassionate and engaged employees that have pride working for our healthcare system. Our turnover rate is low and patient satisfaction is high, all because we do things the right way.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We’re currently completing an internal renovation of our operating rooms, which will result in three additional ORs and a urology suite. Additionally, a four-story medical office building is being designed that will have an ambulatory surgical center on the first floor.
What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?
Take time to listen before you act/react.
In a hospital setting, I think leaders should be required to have clinical experience. It’s the only way to truly understand what can and can’t be done when it comes to patient care. In today’s healthcare environment, with its reimbursement and practice efficiency challenges, more than ever before leaders need to have a clear understanding of the clinical aspect of the job.
That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t also understand the business parts of the job. But, because I’ve been a nurse who has worked bedside, I understand what my staff can and can’t do without, as far as supplies, equipment, and materials that help ensure optimal care. It turns out you don’t have to cut corners to save a dollar. If leaders in our profession know what it takes to care for a patient, then they’ll know where the cost-savings are that don’t compromise care.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Aurelio Fernandez III, FACHE, the president and chief executive officer of Memorial Healthcare System, has been my mentor for more than 20 years. He saw things in me I wasn’t sure were there, appropriately pushed me out of my comfort zone, and trusted me and my judgment implicitly.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
As I’ve climbed the professional ladder, I’ve continued to teach the next generation of caregivers. I’m currently teaching nursing leadership at Florida International University’s College of Nursing because I’m compelled to give back to a career that has provided me the personal and professional satisfaction this one has.
It’s all about helping others, and that’s what I preach to my students (and staff). Nursing is the art of caring, a place where we help those who are ill, in pain, and at their most vulnerable. They’ve placed their complete trust in what is usually a total stranger, so we need to match that with the utmost respect and compassion. If I can teach that to young people entering the healthcare industry, I’ll have had a positive impact on all the lives they touch moving forward.
What are your “Leadership Lessons I Learned From My Experience” and why.
I don’t ask my staff to do anything I haven’t already done or wouldn’t be willing to do. As I’ve climbed the administrative ladder, each time I was promoted and joined a new hospital team, I’d still wear scrubs and get to know each department. I’d even pitch in and help when it was needed. I think it’s important to lead by example.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
I mentioned this earlier, but I really believe people in my position should be required to clinical experience, so they have real perspective and insight into patient care and make decisions with those folks in mind. Hospitals and healthcare systems are big business, but we’re not like other industries, where customer satisfaction is preferred but not always required. In our building, the decisions leaders make can be the difference between life and death.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Every experience, whether good or bad, is meant to teach you something, and there’s often more learning in failure than success. We as individuals just have to see and heed the lessons.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why?
Oprah Winfrey. She grew up in poverty, was abused as a child, faced discrimination, and still had the fortitude to overcome every challenge. Oprah is one of the most successful women in history, so that’s definitely a meal I’d be excited to be part of.