In its landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommended that the healthcare industry increase the number of nurses in key decision-making roles—on the boards of hospitals, public health commissions, and other organizations that work to influence health policy and quality of care. The report states that:
Nurses represent the largest segment of the health care workforce, are considered the most trustworthy of all professions1 and play a huge role on the frontlines of care in our schools, hospitals, community health centers, long-term care facilities and other places. Their perspective and influence must be felt more at decision-making tables.
In response, the ANA founded the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC), a partnership of organizations that are now working to educate their members about serving on a leadership board and leveraging connections in order to gain a board position. The goal is to have 10,000 nurses serving on the boards of corporate and non-profit health-related organizations by 2020. On the Coalition’s website, a thermometer measures progress made toward this goal: as of this writing, it stands at 2265 board-affiliated nurses.
The idea is that, because nurses have the most contact with patients and their family members, they have frontline knowledge of the way healthcare is actually delivered—knowledge that could prove valuable to a board of directors as its members make decisions about quality initiatives, strategic planning, patient services, and community outreach. Nurses are particularly qualified to weigh in on matters like reducing medication errors, increasing access to care, and improving patient satisfaction scores.
Giving nurses a voice at the board table also makes good sense in terms of staff satisfaction. For example, after hospital boards create new policies or procedures, they hand them down to nurse managers to implement. If staff nurses don’t “buy in” to the new procedure, it does little good. Having a nurse on the board of directors ensures the nursing perspective is considered when new polices are created.
The Online Journal of Nursing recently published an article about nurses on organizational boards. It suggested that nurses interested in serving on boards develop these six competencies:
- a professional commitment to shared governance
- knowledge about board types and bylaws
- an understanding of standard business protocols, board member roles, and voting processes
- a willingness to use established principles for managing effective meetings
- an appreciation for the ethical and legal processes used to conduct meetings
- the ability to use conflict-resolution strategies during intense or uncivil situations
The authors of the article conclude that, by assuming leadership roles, nurses can enhance the health of society as a whole.
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