HealthNovember 14, 2017

A nurse's place is in the boardroom

Nursing is vastly underrepresented on boards and taskforces. To correct that, the Nurses on Boards Coalition is working to have 10,000 nurses serving on boards by 2020.

Nurses make up the largest portion of the health care workforce. Nurses are on the frontlines in hospitals, schools, community practices and other settings focused on health. And for the past 14 years in a row, the public has selected nurses as the most honest and ethical professionals in America.

So why is nursing so underrepresented on health-related boards, commissions and taskforces? For example, a 2014 report from the American Hospital Association found that physicians hold 20% of hospital board seats. Nurses? A mere 5%.

The Nurses on Boards Coalition is working to improve stats like that. Since 2014, the coalition — which counts among its member organizations AARP, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and dozens of nursing groups — has been pursuing a goal of no less than 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020.

A key driver of its mission is the recommendation in the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 The Future of Nursing report that nurses occupy more seats on boards, advisory committees and commissions.

Another major motivator of the effort is a firm conviction having to do with the public good. Namely, that getting more nurses on decision-making bodies will be a big step forward in improving the health of communities across the nation.

What nurses offer

Nurses have unique expertise and experience that would enrich any health-related board.

“All of the things that nurses do on a regular basis is a collective skill set that most other professions don’t have,” explained Kimberly Harper, RN, MS, chief executive officer, Indiana Center for Nursing, and cochair of the Nurses on Boards Coalition. “Nurses have experience in finance and managing budgets; communications and the ability to work with and lead a team; quality and process improvement for patient care; and for making good decisions, strategic planning and human resources. They bring something very different to the table.”

Also invaluable is the time nurses spend with patients and families. By witnessing so many of their stories and hearing their perspectives, nurses develop a depth of understanding boards and committees could undoubtedly benefit from.

Opportunities await

Nurses on Boards Coalition

To date, the Nurses on Boards Coalition is about a third of the way toward meeting its goal of 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020. (If you are serving on a board, make sure you’re counted in the coalition’s tally by providing your information here.)

The coalition also links nurses willing to serve on boards with organizations seeking board members who are nurses. Nurses who sign up on the Nurses on Boards Coalition website receive updates on board opportunities nationwide. Organizations ready to invite a nurse to join their board can sign up to receive a list of qualified candidates through the coalition, too.

“The future we envision is one in which every health care-related board has at least one nurse member. We invite you to be part of this transformative journey,” states Nurses on Boards Coalition board cochair Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, FAAN, CEO of the American Nurses Association. “Although no one can predict what the health care system of the future will look like, I have no doubt that the nation’s 3.8 million registered nurses are the ones who should lead the change we wish to see.”

For nurses who find the possibility of serving on boards intriguing but aren’t entirely convinced of their place on such bodies, the Nurses on Boards Coalition offers testimonial perspectives from nurses serving on boards and numerous resources, including articles and free webinars, to get your leadership journey underway.

In the end, the good nurses do through serving on boards has a way of coming back and benefitting them in return.

As Sue Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, observed, “Board service can be rewarding to nurses both personally and professionally. It not only requires them to exercise leadership; it expands those skills and advances their capabilities and knowledge. It gives nurses the chance to meet people and enhance their professional networks. And it can be inspirational and empowering.”

Wolters Kluwer is proud to support the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC) as a Founding Strategic Partner. For additional information on how to get involved with NOBC, please visit

Click HERE to check out our exclusive podcast interview with Dr. Patrick Robinson, PhD, RN, FAAN and Dean of Capella University where he discusses his recommendations for upcoming nurse leaders and the importance of nurses serving on boards and in leadership roles.

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