FIU Alumna and current CEO runs a hospital remotely from home while battling cancer during the pandemic

Grisel Fernandez-Bravo

Grisel Fernandez-Bravo makes running a hospital from home sound easy. The 1985 FIU nursing alumna works out of a spare bedroom in her role as chief executive officer of Memorial Hospital Miramar in Broward County.

In the days since much of the country transitioned to remote operations, she has directed the setup of a triage tent in her facility’s parking lot (where as many as 350 people come daily for coronavirus testing), authorized the establishing of a wing of “negative pressure” patient rooms to isolate the infected, and rolled out training and protocols for maternity staff in the event of a pregnant woman presenting with COVID-19.

Fernandez-Bravo’s current arm’s-length leadership doesn’t sync with her usual hands-on, roll-up-your-sleeves style—the CEO has often been spotted on site in nurse’s scrubs, a sign of her on-the-ground commitment to patient care—but complete isolation is doctor’s orders: Fernandez-Bravo is undergoing treatment for bone-marrow cancer and cannot afford exposure to the virus that has upended much of the world. Frankly, it would kill her.

Every morning, weekends included, begins with a 7 o’clock call during which she goes over reports and gets details coming out of the incident command center. How many folks tested positive over the past 24 hours? How many were moved into critical care? How many beds remain available?

“As frustrating as it is for me personally because I can’t be there physically, I know that I have an amazing team,” she says. “We all work so closely together, we all know each other really well and what the expectations are during a time like this. As hard as it’s been, I can say that we’re doing extremely well.”

Also holding a doctor of nursing practice degree and an MBA, Fernandez-Bravo chalks up her ability to lead remotely in such an historically unprecedented time to her decades of working as a boots-on-the-ground nurse and, later, chief nursing officer, before ascending to her current position in 2016.

“Because I’m a nurse, I can do it with my eyes closed. Because I was an ER nurse, I know what the demands are and what happens in these types of situations,” she says. “As a nurse, regardless of what role I’m in, I care for patients. That’s what I’m doing. And because I happen to be a CEO, I also take good care of my employees,” she says of the 2,100 who work at the 178-bed hospital. “I make sure that they’re safe. I make sure that their needs are being met.”

Grisel remains hopeful of her own situation. The opportunity to lead in such a doubly difficult time also keeps her going.

“It means a lot to me that I’m able to do this [job] and be a resource right now,” she says. “I have faith in God that he will help me through this. I have work and I have family. And so I have everything.”

Power desk: Grisel Fernandez-Bravo’s home office.

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