May 05, 2016

As Leaders, Nurses Can (and Do, and Should) Take the Initiative

Graphic 3. iStock_000046993588_LargeGood leaders listen. Good leaders stay calm. They have empathy, take in small details while considering big goals, and figure out needs and how to solve problems. They have experience gleaned from handling the unpredictable.

This is what nurses do, every day.

That’s why organizations that don’t have nurses on their boards are missing out on members whose insights add impact to the health and well-being of businesses, community institutions, education systems and much more. They’re also missing the critical perspective nurses bring when it comes to caring for people.

Nurses who serve on boards can help to balance the business of health care with successful clinical outcomes, yet their perspective is sorely underrepresented on hospital and health care boards. Nationally, less than 5 percent of hospital boards have members who are registered nurses.

National Nurses Week is a time to recognize the talents that nurses have, and also consider how increasing nurses’ leadership roles, including serving on boards and other decision-making bodies, can help improve our nation’s health.

The Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, a national initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP, and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), bases its work on recommendations published by the Institute of Medicine (IOM), guidance that sees nurses as key to America’s ability to improve its health and health care. The IOM emphasizes the need for nurses to lead: “Nurses must build new partnerships with other clinicians, business owners, philanthropists, elected officials, and the public to help realize … improvements” in health and the health care system.

The IOM report was a catalyst for an effort devoted exclusively to this cause: The Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC), which started in the Campaign’s offices and has an ambitious goal: to improve the health of communities and the nation through the service of nurses on boards and other bodies. To that end, NOBC is aiming to have 10,000 nurses placed on boards by 2020. AARP, RWJF, and the 22 national nursing organizations that comprise the NOBC are working to meet this aggressive target through a national registry of nurses on boards, as well as keeping track of those who would like to be paired with a board.

May 6–12 is National Nurses Week, and as we thank our nation’s nurses, we want to remind them of the important voice they bring to health care decision-making tables. If you are a nurse who is serving on a board or want to serve on a board, please take a moment to share your information with the NOBC and help us achieve our goal of getting 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020. We also invite you to learn more and join the efforts in your state to get more nurses into positions of leadership by contacting your state Action Coalition.

This post was written for Nurses Week 2016.