Marleen Hafer, RN

Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center has consistently been recognized by Healthgrades as one of America’s Best Hospitals for its clinical excellence. Recently, U.S. News & World Report ranked the hospital as #33 in California—with particularly high rankings in gastroenterology, GI surgery and orthopedics.

In her role as director of perioperative, cardiovascular and cardiology services, Marleen Hafer, MBA, BSN, RN, CNOR, NEA-BC, oversees multiple departments. After graduating from Pierce College, she completed the surgical nurse training program at what was then called Tarzana Medical Center. She started working at the hospital in 1993. Her role in the surgery department has evolved from charge nurse to assistant nurse manager, nurse manager and then to her current role as director. Marleen also serves as cochair for the Providence Health System—Perioperative Resource Council.

Tell us about your role at the hospital.

My days consist of optimization projects, program growth and strategic development, budgeting, finance, capital planning, physician relations, staff mentoring, performance improvement and quality assurance. I can have anywhere from one to 15 meetings on any given day, but my priority is always centered around enhancing the patient experience. We are dedicated to providing exceptional quality and compassionate care for our community. 

Why are your certifications important?

I am a certified perioperative nurse, and I hold the nurse executive advanced board-certified credential. The knowledge I gained through these programs helps me immeasurably with my abilities to adapt to change, listen attentively, deliver high-quality work and develop organizational agility. 

How do you foster a positive work environment?

The keys to fostering a positive work environment are maintaining open lines of communication with my staff, providing coaching, and encouraging personal and professional development and education. When we focus on uplifting each individual for their strengths and talents, teams are more successful. And of course, providing chocolate for the staff helps as well.

What motivates you to go to work every day?

I like challenges. I strive to demonstrate initiative and strategic thinking while displaying confidence and composure. Being surrounded by a talented team of great people helps me immensely. I couldn’t do what I do without them. The rhythm of the day-to-day work that the nurse managers and directors share is familiar but different every day. Managing the logistics of operations while at the same time advocating for patients and staff is challenging yet extremely fulfilling. 

What are some of the essential qualities for women in leadership roles today?

Essential qualities for women in leadership roles today include effective communication, flexibility and creativity. Encouraging inclusivity and engagement also are vital for those in management. In health care specifically, it also is extremely important to have strong business acumen and to be a champion for change. Being open and flexible allows for advancement toward the governing goal, which is to help improve patient outcomes. Working to achieve and maintain true human connections with trust and respect among colleagues also is indispensable, because leaders are only as effective as the team around them. 

Tell us about your connection to the Valley.

Originally from New Orleans, I have lived and worked in the San Fernando Valley for over 35 years! I regularly visit the Encino farmers market and enjoy the local parks, trails and golf options. Shout-out to local restaurants Greystoke Grill, Miho Sushi and VIP’s Cafe. I also love AJ’s Tex-Mex & Barbecue and spend special occasions at Mistral as often as possible. 

What project are you working on next? 

We are excited that on October 1, we will move into our new patient tower and occupy our new 22-bed prep and recovery department, GI lab and cardiology department. The next big projects are the relocation of several smaller departments and adding four new state-of-the-art operating rooms and a biplane suite to our surgery department. Exciting stuff! 

Share a bit about your life outside the job. 

I enjoy Pilates, reading, and listening to podcasts. My current favorite book is The Power of When by Michael Breus. I also like to explore new things—either via travel (big fan of Palm Springs, Las Vegas and our beautiful California coast) or by taking cooking classes (pasta-making, cheese-making). My husband—wine expert and comedian Christopher Adams—is from Palm Springs via Texas, and we both have family in Georgia. We love to travel to visit them whenever we can.

Tell us about your staff.

I’m extremely grateful to our team for their persistence over the last several years despite the significant disruptions that are an inevitable part of massive construction—and for their caring for our community and one another through the complexities of the pandemic. They are what drive me. 

Photographed by Jeffrey Fiterman