The late congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Today, nurses throughout the nation are encouraged by the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC) to have a seat at the table through appointments on all types of boards, defined as decision-making bodies with strategic influence to improve the health of communities nationwide: corporate, governmental, nonprofit and non-nursing, governance boards or commissions, hospital and health system, and panels and task forces that have fiduciary or strategic responsibilities. Although positions on state boards of nursing and nursing association boards are valued, they are not counted in the coalition’s numbers.
The 2011 Institute of Medicine Future of Nursing report recommends that “private and public funders, health care organizations, nursing education programs, and nursing associations should expand opportunities for nurses to lead and manage collaborative efforts with physicians and other members of the health care team to conduct research and to redesign and improve practice environments and health systems” (Institute of Medicine, 2011, p. 11). In 2014, this vision was addressed through the strategic collaborative efforts of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP to implement the NOBC. The National League for Nursing was one of 20 founding nursing organizations. Today, the NOBC has 30 member organizations and 15 strategic partners and sponsors.
The coalition’s goal (as stated on the website www.nursesonboardscoalition.org) is to “improve the health of communities and the nation through the service of nurses on boards and other bodies. 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.” In an American Hospital Association study, “the percentage of physician trustees remained the same from 2011 to 2014, but the percentage of board members that were nurses or other clinicians declined” (AHA Center for Healthcare Governance, 2014, p. 12). The NOBC is targeting different types of boards and increasing nurses’ awareness of opportunities to serve.
Nurses are leaders in a variety of settings including public health, academia, health care systems and hospitals, and the community. Thus, recruitment for board positions can happen in all types of settings. Some of the transferable assets that nurses bring to the table — which we must be prepared to talk about to justify why nurses should be on boards — include the following: decision-making skills, strategic thinking and planning, financial acumen, quality and safety knowledge, negotiation skills, diverse perspectives, systems perspectives about organizations, knowledge of health care and patient-centered care, and communication skills.
Often nurses are stereotyped, and individuals are unable or willing to see nurses through a different lens. It is time to reframe their thinking about nurses as leaders capable of serving on boards.
The overarching goal of NOBC is to have 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020. Coalition work groups have been charged with designing and implementing creative strategies to meet this goal by identifying boards in which nurses serve, identifying resources for board preparation and support, designing a communication plan, and developing a sustainability plan. The coalition is asking nurse educators to share information about their board membership and their interest in future service. The goal is to compile a national database of nurses serving on boards and ultimately help connect nurses with boards. Go to www.nursingonboardscoaltion.org.
AHA Center for Healthcare Governance. (2014). 2014 National healthcare governance survey report
. Retrieved from www.htnys.org/include/docs/14-Governance-Survey-Report.pdf
Institute of Medicine. (2011). The future of nursing: Leading change, advancing health
. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.