1. Graystone, Rebecca MS, MBA, RN, NE-BC


Nurses are a natural fit for board service. They represent the biggest segment of the healthcare workforce, consistently rank as the nation's most trusted profession, and play a huge role on the frontlines of healthcare. Why, then, are so few nurses serving on boards today? This month's Magnet(R) Perspectives column examines a nationwide effort to address this gap. We explore the benefits of board service for nurses, their hospitals, and their communities and identify opportunities for chief nursing officers (CNOs) to incorporate board work into their existing programs.


Article Content

Nurses are leaders in the hospital, in the community, and in the healthcare field. But there is 1 area where they are conspicuous by their absence: board positions.

Figure. No caption a... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. No caption available.

The American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Nurses Foundation (the Foundation) are working to change this. ANA and the Foundation are founding members of the Nurses on Boards Coalition,1 an alliance of organizations focused on increasing nursing's role in the boardroom. The goal is to put 10 000 nurses on boards by 2020.2


To move this initiative forward, the Foundation is conducting a pilot program in partnership with ANCC Magnet(R)-recognized organizations across the country. Its purpose is 2-fold: to help chief nursing officers (CNOs) quantify how many of their nurses are serving on boards and identify opportunities to integrate board service into existing programs.


Lorie Rhine, MSN, RN, NE-BC, vice president and CNO of Summa Health System in Akron, Ohio, explains why her organization is involved. "We want to develop our nurses as leaders in the community," she says. "Summa Health, like all hospital systems across the country, is increasingly population health focused. We understand how important it is that our nurses extend their leadership qualities and natural ability to connect with people beyond the hospital walls and onto boards. Being part of this pilot will help our nurses recognize their potential and feel more comfortable about participating in board service."


Why Nurses, Why Now?

It is time to recognize that any board would benefit from the unique perspective of nurses. The pilot program targets nurses at all levels and encourages them to get involved in areas they are passionate about. While hospital or healthcare-related board service is certainly an option, it is not mandatory. Nurses bring value to their child's school board, or a YMCA or transportation board, where they can advocate for health-enhancing changes such as bike lanes, sidewalks, or bus shelters. Whether they serve a community board or a corporate or government entity, their influence contributes to a healthier population.


"Board service is important because we haven't always had our voices heard or been at the table giving our opinion of how healthcare should be delivered," Rhine says. "Nurses have the education, knowledge, and the people skills to provide opportunities for themselves and their organizations."


The Magnet Connection

With its emphasis on shared governance, professional development, and nursing excellence, the Magnet environment is a perfect incubator for board service. For Jennifer Doyle, MSN, WHNP, Perinatal Outreach Educator/Advanced Practice Nurse for Women's Health Services at Summa Health, a commitment to evidence-based practice and best care principles drove her board involvement. She is now president of the Association of Women's Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses (AWHONN) Board of Directors, and the 1st nurse to serve on the board of The Foundation for Exxcellence in Women's Health.


In both cases, she began at the local level and moved up. "I was an AWHONN chapter leader in Akron, served as secretary-treasurer and then chair of AWHONN Ohio, followed by 2 terms on the national AWHONN board before becoming president," Doyle says. "The Foundation opportunity presented itself after years of interdisciplinary collaboration in leadership roles. Now, as a member of the board's Executive Committee and chair of the Communications Committee, I share the Foundation's mission and work with a nursing audience to increase interdisciplinary education, collaboration, and communication."


Diana Vance, MSN, APRN-CCNS, CCRN, director of Advanced Practice Providers (APP) and a neuro care clinical nurse specialist at Summa Health, is a member of 5 boards, councils, and committees within the healthcare system.


"My involvement began in an effort to give APPs better representation and a stronger voice," she says. "We formed the APP Council, and I served as chairperson/vice chair, secretary, and treasurer. Then, the president of the all-physician Summa Health Medical Group Executive Board invited me to join as a voting participant. I also represent advanced practice on the hospital's Medical Executive Committee. Even as a nonvoting member, I provide insight into advanced practice. APPs now have input into policies and procedures that affect our practice in the same way as physicians do. We are on-boarded into the organization the same as our physician colleagues. Our credentialing process and delineation of privileges have become standardized to ensure quality patient care is being delivered by competent APPs."


Advancing the Journey

Healthcare decision makers must ensure that board leadership positions are available to, and filled by, nurses. Nurses must take responsibility (Figure 1). By focusing on their professional growth and honing their leadership skills, nurses will develop the competencies necessary to take the next steps on their board journey.

Figure. How can you ... - Click to enlarge in new windowFigure. How can you get involved?



1. Nurses on Boards Coalition. Accessed November 11, 2018. [Context Link]


2. A Goal and a Challenge: Putting 10,000 Nurses on Governing Boards by 2020. 2014. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Accessed November 11, 2018. [Context Link]