Nurses’ experience gives them an “essential viewpoint” on the critical issues facing the nation’s health care system, but too often the voices of nurses are missing on hospital, health system and nonprofit organization boards. A 2010 survey found that nurses made up only 6 percent of board members, while physicians held 20 percent of those seats. The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Future of Nursing report recommends nurses be represented on boards and in other key leadership positions at every level, but getting there may seem daunting.
In an article for American Nurse Today, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Senior Adviser for Nursing Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, offers insight to help nurses take the first steps toward board service. Before considering board service, she writes, consider these five action steps:
1. Create a personal strategic plan. Think about and articulate what you want to achieve, and develop specific action steps to achieve it.
2. Be passionate. Find an organization outside your workplace with a mission you can support and issues about which you have knowledge or skills.
3. Start locally. Start in your community and look for opportunities to serve in leadership.
4. Build connections. Begin to build connections outside your profession and more broadly within your community.
5. Seek ongoing education. Invest in yourself through continuing education on leadership and board skills.
“With activities taking place across the nation to make the IOM recommendations a reality, this may be one of the most exciting times in the history of nursing,” Hassmiller writes. “Make the effort to do the work required to prepare for leadership and to step onto the first rungs of community board service—and beyond.”