5 reasons hospital boards need more nurses

Despite playing a vital role in patient care delivery, nurses make up only 6 percent of hospital board members according to the most recent American Hospital Association governance data.

Given their knowledge and skills, nurse leaders need to have a greater voice on hospital boards either as members or as a source for invaluable input to board members and committees, according to Paula Roe, BSN, operational excellence leader at Simpler Consulting

Listed below are five reasons why hospital boards need more nurses and nurse input, according to Ms. Roe.

1. In addition to making up the largest single component of a hospital's staff, often times nurses make up the largest portion of provider touch time with patients, meaning they spend the most time of any clinician physically delivering care to patients and interacting with them one-on-one.

"Nurses are a proxy for the voice of the customers, the patients," said Ms. Roe. "They know what is needed to take care of the patient effectively and efficiently and they know what the evolving needs of a patient population are."

Additionally, nursing leaders, from directors to the CNO, know what is needed for the nursing staff to deliver greater value to the patients, which they can communicate back to the board.

2. When hospital boards implement new policies and procedures, they are handed down to managers and then staff to execute while the board moves on to the next project. If a project doesn't have buy-in from nurses and staff, the policies and procedures won't stick, according to Ms. Roe.

When nurses actively participate in board decisions, they understand the intent behind the improvements and buy-in increases.  

"Nurses are key to executing the vision of the board," said Ms. Roe. "Nurses can enable the tactics that help the hospital achieve on the board of directors' strategies and objectives."

3. Besides physicians and healthcare executives, hospital boards typically include a cross section of individuals including business professionals, public service employees, educators and others who don't necessarily have a healthcare background. Nurses are particularly adept at explaining the complexities of the industry and healthcare processes in laymen's terms, according to Ms. Roe, a useful asset to have on a hospital board.

"Part of the training and education for nurses is learning how to translate to the patient those complexities and how they related to their particular condition, so nurses are well-versed and well-practiced in doing just that."

4. Nurse involvement in leadership roles is not just advantageous to patients and hospital board members. According to Ms. Roe, the more active nurses are, the more likely they are to gain respect from colleagues.

"The more engaged nurses are with the decision-making process and executing strategic plans and the more involved they are with boards and board committees, the more regard there is for those nurses and the profession," said Ms. Roe. "That engagement acts as a catalyst for their credibility and what they do on a day-to-day basis."

5. In the shift from fee-for-service to value-based care, nurses' roles will become increasingly vital on hospital boards. The more nurses are engaged and understand value-based purchasing, the more they'll be able to eliminate waste.  

"Nurses are going to be key in helping organizations identify opportunities to reduce waste, reduce inefficiencies and deliver higher value which is essential to success in the new managing population health model as opposed to fee-for-service," said Ms. Roe.

For nurses interested in getting more involved on hospital boards, Ms. Roe suggests they present their work to the hospital board to show how they're improving the delivery of care and patient experience. Also, nurses can invite board members to participate in their rapid improvement events and their project- and event-based work.

"Sending an invitation to busy business professionals on the board may not get much attention or a positive response but, if you're working on a key effort, you may be able to identify board members who have a personal or professional passion that can translate into a vested interest in your work," said Roe.



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