Nurses are in the perfect position to serve on a variety of boards, especially in healthcare.

Our voices are important because of our education and experience across many healthcare settings and specialties, as well as consistently being named the most honest and trustworthy profession by the American public. It was with these beliefs in mind — and a lot of hard work — the Nurses on Boards Coalition was born.

In 2010, the landmark Institute of Medicine report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” made clear in one of its recommendations that nurses must have an increased number of seats and have decision-making roles on various boards and commissions working on improving healthcare in America.

Following this dictum, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP came together in a collaborative effort comprised of nurses from nursing and healthcare organizations, to implement the IOM recommendation. They formed the Campaign for Action to build healthier communities.

“Let us be clear: we believe inviting more nurse leaders to the boardroom will improve the board’s effectiveness and efficiency in addressing the compelling business case to improve the patient experience,” wrote Laurie Benson, BSN, RN, executive director of the Nurses on Boards Coalition, and Susan Hassmiller, RN, PhD, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

As part of these efforts, the Nurses on Boards Coalition was formed in 2014, with the goal of having 10,000 nurses on boards nationwide by the year 2020 and defining the boards they would serve on as “decision-making bodies with strategic influence to improve the health of communities nationwide.”

The coalition’s guiding principle is the idea that “building healthier communities in America requires the involvement of more nurses on corporate, health-related and other boards, panels and commissions.” 

In 2015, the Nurses on Boards Coalition launched a website, which has more details about the coalition, including a database to track the number of nurses serving on board positions.

To learn more and see the current count, visit the Nurses on Boards Coalition website.

Progress in placing nurses on boards

Information regarding nursing’s value on boards and how by education, background and experience they can contribute to them has been promulgated at programs and in seminars and has been filling the nursing literature since the Nurses on Boards Coalition was formed.

The coalition reported a total of nearly 5,000 nurses on boards earlier this year, a number which has continued to grow in the months since.

To underscore their progress regarding new numbers, the update pointed out that board and governance roles nurses already had within the profession were not being counted toward the goal, and that the coalition was measuring progress and impact to improve health beyond the profession across the nation.

“Board service can be rewarding to nurses both personally and professionally,” said Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. She also is the driving force behind the coalition. “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.”

How to get involved

There also has been a good deal of involvement from many professional nursing organizations, and with a goal of 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020 and the current number showing approximately half of that, we’re doing pretty good.

The Nurses on Boards Coalition includes the following organizations:

Check the number as it grows on the coalition’s website. Get involved and get your facilities involved — every facility needs to make room at their table for nursing’s voice.

Take time to learn about the hospital board member/trustee role in this overview of the hospital board member/trustee role. Find out what they do and why they love it.

And if you have recently become or are soon to become a board member, please share your story and help the number grow.

Halfway there is great — we can do this.

Leave a comment