April 08, 2010 | | Comments 6
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Study: Board of directors missing nurses

In 2009, the University of Iowa conducted a study reviewing 201 health systems with a total of 2,046 voting board members and discovered that only 2.4% were nurses. This number comes as a bit of a surprise, as the study also found that 22% of the voting board members were physicians.

To add to the data, Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, the Robert Wood Foundation senior adviser for nursing and director of the RWJF Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Institute of Medicine conducted a study of her own. She looked at the top 10 organizations that oversee quality, the top 10 hospitals and health systems, and the top 10 peer-reviewed non-nursing journals, and counted how many nurses were on the board of directors.

To Hassmiller’s dismay, she only found 2% to 4% of board spots held by nurses.

“How can an organization that is all about delivering high-quality patient care not have a nurse on the board?” Hassmiller asks. “It’s great they have all these people—such as people representing the community—but to not have one nurse to say what’s going to work on the frontlines, it just boggles the mind.”


Is a nurse a member of your organization’s board of directors? Do you think all boards should include at least one nurse? If a nurse is not on your facility’s board of directors, how is information communicated from your specialty to the directors?


Source: HealthLeaders Media

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Sarah Kearns About the Author: Sarah is an Editorial Assistant in the patient safety group at HCPro, Inc. She contributes to two monthly newsletters; Briefings on the Joint Commission and Briefings on Patient Safety, and manages four e-zines; Accreditation Connection, AHAP Staff Challenge, Nurse Manager Weekly, and Healthcare Training Weekly. She also helps research new products for the patient safety and nursing market. She graduated from the University of Connecticut in 2008 where she earned her bachelor's degree in English.

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  1. Nurse’s input is greatly overlooked in the healthcare industry. Too many decisions are being made that impact our healthcare system by those with business degrees that are totally focused on ecomonic issues and do not have a full understanding of the health issues and clients that are impacted by those decisions. Nurses understand the holistic picture of healthcare as they take care of indigent, middle class,upper class, pediatric, middle age, and elderly clients. They see on a day to day basis how healthcare decisions affect all types of clients and services. Management level nurses understand operational functions and are often overlooked for having the knowledge.
    Management level nurses who are board members would give a rounded approach to policy and decision making.

  2. This is amazing. Suzanne Gordon has written a lot about the invisibility of nurses in media (“From Silence to Voice: What Nurses Know and Must Communicate to the Public”) and our lack of visibility and active involvement in public relations prevents us from being considered for these positions.

    We nurses probably don’t network as well as we should—how many of us belong to professional organizations and are ACTIVE in them? How many of us have a profile on LinkedIn? How many of us have contacted our public relations/hospital communications office to let them know we’re available for media interviews? To an extent, we are responsible for our own failures. We can’t stand by waiting to be invited; we need to make it imperative nursing’s voice is heard.

  3. As a hospital trustee and an RN with a national consulting practice, I am present on nursing units across the country frequently and talk with staff RNs and executives on a near- daily basis. The main purpose of hospitals is to provide nursing care. For centuries nurses have known how to provide systems and support for illness care as well as preventive and health maintenance…and nurses KNOW how to run hospitals with patients and families (the mission or purpose) at the core of every decision. I was personally mentored and selected to become a board member and I challenge each RN to search for opportunities to become a trustee. As the most trusted profession, surely we as RNs have a wealth of wisdom and experience to offer to guide healthcare strategic direction! Ruth Hansten RN PhD FACHE

  4. It is an unfortunate reality that nures often remain unseen or unheard participants when it comes to policy and practice.This happens in our individual organizations as well and we must address it there. If your CNO is not reporting to the CEO directly your organizational tree needs fertilizing! Janet McHale

  5. As nurses we need to let our voices be heard outside of the circle we work in. We need to change this, get involve in committees…..I know some of us are busy raising our children. Lets change this.

  6. I think I am fortunate to work for a healthcare system that saw the value of nurses as board members long ago and as a result, we are a growing and healthy organization in this troubled economic climate. Our board of directors contains 5 nurses and our CEO, COO and hospital administrators are all nurses. We recently received the prestigious Baldrige award. I am proud to be a nurse and to work at an organization which gives more than lip service to promoting the value of nurses.

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