A seasoned nurse and hospital executive, Lisa Perales, faces daily challenges in her work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Perales is the chief nursing officer at Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital, an affiliate of Encompass Health, in Worcester, Mass., and responsible for leading the hospital’s nurses as they care for patients recovering from life changing illnesses and injuries.

Profiled in a recent Powered by Care episode, she reflects on her career as a nurse and healthcare executive, and how the variety of roles she has held are part of her journey and preparation to navigate the immense pressure of caring for a vulnerable population of patients during a pandemic.

“The particular roles I have tried on as part of my journey to mature in the profession include twists and turns,” said Perales. “I am thankful for the positions and situations that have provided me with exposure to enhance teamwork and communication, and also the opportunity to understand all roles that make up an incident command scenario. It’s invaluable to be able to put myself in the shoes of everyone so I can offer the support they need in overwhelming situations.”

Perales likens COVID-19 to a category 5 hurricane that has made landfall with debris flying at high speeds. The most critical role of the chief nursing officer is to field the debris in a logical manner while developing best practices and adapting along the way.

In the midst of the pandemic, Perales keeps patient satisfaction top of mind, while also caring for team members who are experiencing physical and mental exhaustion that comes with working on the frontlines. A member of the hospital leadership team, she is also helping her fellow hospital leadership team properly absorb and communicate the continuous flow of information from regulatory agencies and news agencies.   

Prior to her appointment as Fairlawn Rehabilitation Hospital’s chief nursing officer, Perales served as chief clinical officer and vice president of nursing/population health at Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, New Hampshire. She has held many director and management roles in the healthcare setting, including the vice president of nursing. She has experienced many crises during her nursing career, including September 11, the subsequent anthrax attacks and the previous outbreaks of Ebola, H1N1 and SARS.

Perales earned her MBA and bachelor’s degree in nursing at Fitchburg State University, and she is a three-time winner of the MCG (Hearst Health) National Award for Innovation and Excellence in Healthcare.

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