Nurse Leaders in the Boardroom

A Fitting Choice

Nurses act in leadership roles in many health care settings, yet, just 6 percent of hospital board members are nurses while 20 percent are physicians.

A recent Gallup poll of opinion leaders conducted for RWJF found that the greatest barrier to having more nurse leaders in the boardroom was the perception that nurses, when compared to physicians, were not decision-makers. The same survey, however, also found overwhelming support for nurses to have more influence in reducing medical errors, increasing quality of care, promoting wellness, expanding preventative care, improving health care efficiency, and reducing costs.

The Institute of Medicine’s landmark 2011 report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, emphasized the important role for nurses to lead efforts to improve and redesign the U.S. health care system.

Many of the skills and competencies recommended for board leadership are used daily by nurse leaders in their work. With intimate knowledge of patient care, they understand how to improve quality and control costs.

“As hospitals and health systems explore how to meet the challenges of the coming decade,” the authors write in conclusion, “they would be well-served to realize the breadth and depth of skills and capabilities that nurse leaders can bring to board positions.”