A Tribute to Gail Gordon

Gail Gordon, RN

My friend, Gail, died last week. It was sudden and shocking. Gail was an expert nurse, a solid manager, and a wonderful human being who never sought the spotlight. While CEO at Homestead Hospital, I appointed her to the top position in nursing leadership even though she was not, on paper, the most qualified applicant. But I knew something about Gail that no staid corporate interview could ever reveal – her reservoir of strength and grit. 

When it mattered, Gail showed courage under fire. She earned her title of Chief Nursing Officer on the battlefield of healthcare. She stood tall in the face of the monster Andrew, rose to the occasion once again with Irma, and led many skirmishes in-between. Gail was the leader who never lost focus, despite managing a nursing staff at a busy hospital in a struggling community.

In today’s business environment, healthcare is dominated by quantifiable metrics, i.e. the usual graphs, spreadsheets and best practices. Of late, though, there is a good amount of overdue appreciation for healthcare providers of all kinds, including doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, lab technologists, etc. While stewarding her budget quite capably, Gail never forgot who she was meant to serve.

And occasionally, her focus was not a patient but a colleague in need. During one emergency, while readying Homestead Hospital for a possible direct hit, it was her concern for an at-risk nurse in the Keys that prompted her 10 phone calls to me. Ultimately, that nurse safely rode out the storm at Homestead Hospital – as a guest of Gail’s.

In this challenging moment in the healthcare industry, Gail was steadfast. Like many leaders, she had the skill to improvise and innovate. In moments like this pandemic, you need to have absolute confidence in those by your side. Like Gail, nurses constantly put themselves in harm’s way. It’s as if they have muscle memory about infection control measures and they follow the protocols reflexively. That’s one reason why you see so much cognitive dissonance with healthcare staff across the country complaining about PPE. It is inconceivable to a nurse not to be able to do the right thing.

Until very recently, those infection prevention protocols were sacrosanct. If you violated them, you would deservedly be chastised and asked to leave, as happened when I bumped a piece of sterile equipment. By observing infection protocols, caregivers aren’t just protecting themselves, they are first and foremost protecting their patients. In fact, one of the greatest compliments a nurse can give is to observe of another, “They’re a good nurse”.  There are depths and layers to that simple phrase that are hard to comprehend for someone who doesn’t carry that important title. Gail was such a nurse, one who heeded the call to the profession.

Like Gail, nurse leaders are often mavericks. They don’t always toe the line. They are less likely to be employee of the month, and may not recite the mission and vision statement. But when you are flat on your back in a hospital bed or the exam room table, these compassionate and innovative caregivers are who you want to see at your bedside.

Gail also fought the novel Coronavirus with all of her might alongside her nurses. Her passing means that this community is now a little less resilient, a little less experienced, a little less ready to fight either this COVID-19 beast or the next.  

When this terrible time passes, remember the ones who stood tall, like Gail, when the going got tough. Find them and give them a public thanks. They deserve it, and you won’t regret calling them out. 

Rest in Peace, Gail Gordon.

Wayne Brackin is the President & CEO of Kidz Medical Services

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  1. Very nicely said, although I never knew her personally (having worked for BHSF for 43 yrs myself), I had heard so many selfless and compassionate stories about her. She will be missed. Thanks Wayne for writing that.

  2. Gail and her husband Bill were my neighbors since 1977. She was a wonderful person and my husband and I will miss her. RIP

  3. While I never had the honor of meeting her, her tribute is a testament to an old school nurse. Degrees are important because they measure a person’s educational journey, but how do you measure what is in the heart of a nurse, her or his moral courage when is sorely needed, compassion, understanding, and a legacy of mentorship? As I read her tribute, I recall every mentor nurse who made sure I was doing the right job every time, and helped me leave a thumbprint on those I touched with caring hands. RIP, Ms. Gordon!

  4. What an awesome tribute to Gail for a “job” well done!!!!
    Thanks for sharing her nursing commitment for others…
    and to witness her qualities for “serving”!!!


  5. I knew her, I at times worked with her thoughI was employed by another BHSF facility and I can say she was a great nurse and an outstanding. Human being. I am sorry there is no opportunity now to pay our respects. I hope her family knows how great her contribution was and how much she will be missed.

  6. I knew Gail from SMH in the 70’s and worked with her on P&P updates, plus she supported me when I needed to transfer to HH right after Andrew. The stories we all shared at the SMH 70’s dinners. She was strong, resilient, caring and understanding. Thank you Mr. Brackin for such a wonderful tribute
    She will certainly live on in our hearts .

  7. Beautiful tribute to a truly beautiful woman who gave so much. I had the honor of working with Gail in administration for brief season and definitely found her to be a standout. I admired her immensely. True grit for sure! Such a huge loss. Rest in peace, sweet lady. 🙏🏻💞

  8. What an eloquent, well-crafted and beautiful tribute to the very personification of Nursing Excellence! She was selflessly leading and conducting business via email literally within two hours of her passing. We feel the loss so intensely because you are so deeply rooted in our hearts. Because of your life we are healthier in so many ways. Thank you, Lady!

  9. Gail was a great CNO, someone who would inspire others to be kind and do their best. It was an honor to work under her leadership. She will be missed..

  10. I had the pleaser of working with Gail. She was my mentor during my masters program and also helped guide me through the red tape when applying for my scholarships. I worked at Homestead Hospital under her guidance and still work in the system after 23 years. She was a wonderful person and will be truly missed. RIP my friend and mentor.


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