Getting Nurses on Board with Serving on Boards

Added on Sep 20, 2017

Diana Mahoney, Editorial Director

imagesThe composition of hospital boards and other health care governing bodies is slowly changing, by necessity if not by choice, as their governing oversight extends beyond financial and operational concerns to issues of health care quality and safety.

With this change, executives are increasingly making room at the board table for clinical leaders who understand the cost-quality balance and, specifically, who know where it is safe to curb costs without compromising quality. Because of their deep knowledge of clinical problems, best practices, quality indicators and other issues related to the safety, quality and experience of care, nurse leaders, in particular, fit this bill.

Nurse representation on boards “adds both a very holistic voice as well as a clinical or medical viewpoint,” said Press Ganey Chief Nursing Officer Christina Dempsey. “Nurses are taught to view the patient as a whole, including physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social aspects, in addition to focusing on disease processes. That unique perspective on decision-making boards can help drive health care improvement in communities.”

Ultimately, it can also drive health care improvement nationally, which is the vision of a recently formed coalition advocating for increased nurse representation on hospital and other health care boards. The Nurses on Boards Coalition, of which Press Ganey is a founding partner, was created in response to the 2010 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, which recommended increasing the number of nurse leaders in pivotal decision-making roles on boards and commissions that work to improve the health of everyone in America.

The coalition’s goal “is to improve the health of communities and the nation through the service of nurses on boards and other bodies,” according to its mission statement. “All boards benefit from the unique perspective of nurses to achieve the goals of improved health and efficient and effective health care systems at the local, state and national levels.”

According to Dempsey, who currently sits on the board for the Missouri Organization of Nurse Leaders and leads the Press Ganey CNO Advisory Council and NDNQI® Steering Committee, and who previously participated on the advisory boards for OR Manager, the Missouri State University School of Nursing, the Ozarks Technical Community College Surgical Technology Program and The Victim Center of Southwest Missouri, “the voice of nurses and nurse leaders reflects their clinical experience and expertise as well as the emotional and cultural dimensions of care that influence individuals in the community as well as populations of patients.”

For example, Dempsey said, “in my role on the advisory boards I served on, I was able to bring my clinical expertise as well as provide a voice for employees, managers and patients who would receive care from members of those organizations. So, in terms of policy development, regulatory compliance, marketing and risk management, the nursing voice is not a nice-to-have, it’s a must-have.”

To be optimally effective, nurses and nurse leaders who are contemplating serving on hospital boards or other health care governing bodies “should have an understanding of the nature of the organization—its mission, vision and values—to be certain they align with their own ideas and beliefs,” Dempsey stressed. “Beyond that, they should have education and relevant experience to demonstrate subject matter expertise, and the passion and perseverance—grit—to make sure their voice is heard.”