4 reasons to add nurses to hospital boards


Hospital boards that want to gain valuable perspective into the patient experience, the workforce and ways to accomplish the Triple Aim should seek out trustees with a background in nursing.

Joanne Disch, R.N., director of the University of Minnesota’s Katharine J. Densford International Center for Nurse Leadership, said the “nurses lens” brings a specific viewpoint to decision-making, according to the American Hospital Association’s summer issue of Great Boards. This perspective is informed by the fact that nurses need to understand people to treat patients, and can engage a diverse group of stakeholders with their wide range of interpersonal skills, Disch said.

The AHA lists a number of other reasons nurses should be a part of hospital boards, including:

  • They have proximity to the science of medicine. Nurses have a scientific understanding of care processes and can offer boards a look into that world when leadership wants to make changes to the care system. Nurses work well in tandem with other healthcare professionals to ensure that boards are as informed as possible when making changes that affect clinicians.

  • They’re informed on patient safety and quality. One of the most important responsibilities of a hospital’s board--in both a financial and a strategic sense--is to ensure that patients are getting safe and high-quality care, according to the AHA. Nurses provide invaluable insight into what works and what doesn’t for patients, and how to improve existing initiatives.

  • They can connect to the community. Nurses, as one of the front-line groups in a hospital, develop close relationships with patients and their families. Use their experience to better connect with the surrounding communities, the AHA recommends.

Nurses are underrepresented on hospital boards--they comprise only about 6 percent of board members, FierceHealthcare previously reported--and it is necessary that they are given a more active role in the trustees’ decision-making process, according to Great Boards. Having a wealth of physicians on the board and gathering input from a Chief Nursing Officer is not enough, according to the AHA, as doctors offer a different perspective than nurses and a CNO is an employee of the hosptial, not someone who can play an independent director’s role.

Nurses looking to take on a board member role should seek out similar voluntary positions at non-profits to gain experience, FierceHealthcare previously reported, and meet with the board chair to learn more about its goals.

- read the Great Boards issue (.pdf)