Year after year nurses are ranked as the most trusted profession. In a recent Gallop poll, 85% of respondents rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as “high.” Given that a nurse’s technical skills and critical thinking abilities may stand between you and death – trust is a good thing.
There are about 3.1 million nurses in the workforce, with 62% of nurses employed by hospitals. Nurses comprise the largest component of hospital staff, outnumbering doctors 4 to 1. As the primary providers of patient care, nurses keep our hospitals running - day in and day out. Not only do nurses have the practical and educational skills to heal us, heartwarming stories involving the kindness of nurses abound.
We love nurses, we trust nurses, we literally put our lives in their hands but despite these sentiments, nurses are rarely given leadership positions on hospital boards. A survey conducted by the American Hospital Association found that only 4-6% of hospitals have a nurse in a voting position on their board.
The role of a board member is to set the goals, direction and policies for an organization. Nurses are in the trenches of our healthcare delivery system. As such, they have a unique viewpoint into the ills that plague today’s healthcare. With Medicare readmission fines, managed care, and an emphasis on patient safety and satisfaction, it seems remiss to exclude the strong clinical voice of the nurse. However, often executives view nurses as “mid-level technicians rather than skilled professionals whose impact on patient care is enormous.” Thus, executives are reticent to consider nurses for board positions.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has recognized the need to increase the number of nurses that hold board position by funding the nursesonboardscoalition.org. This national campaign seeks to place 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020. So far about 2,600 nurses have been appointed. In Florida, the Florida Nurses Association and the Florida Center for Nursing are offering programs to prepare nurses for leadership positions.
Business leaders, attorneys, doctors and other committed professionals on hospital boards all lend a valuable perspective. However, nurses understand the daily workings of a hospital better than any professional. Likewise, nurses have an intimate knowledge of community and patient needs and are well-prepared for solving health and social problems. As such, nurses should be key decision makers and TaxWatch encourages all entities that engage in health or wellness pursuits, particularly healthcare organizations and hospitals, to consider nurses for board positions. Extending the trust we all have in nurses to the boardroom will complete the boards – no players will be missing.