Across the United States, nurses are stepping forward to take seats on leadership boards and decision-making governing bodies, bringing valuable contributions and perspectives to the future of healthcare. Among the nurse professionals ready to take these roles are doctors of nursing practice (DNPs), whose goals are to drive innovation and act as influencers.
Policymakers say the move by nurses to serving on governing boards aligns with the push for nurses to promote healthier living and influence healthcare systems and processes. The effort, started in 2014 by nonprofit Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC), is aimed at seating at least 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020. To date, almost 3,500 have taken such roles.
The move to seat nurses on boards comes in response to a landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, by the Institute of Medicine (IoM) and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the country’s largest healthcare-focused philanthropic organization. Researchers in the report recommended nurses play a bigger role on boards of trustees, boards of governors, councils, and executive committees to improve the health of all Americans.
“Board service can be rewarding to nurses both personally and professionally. It not only requires them to exercise leadership; it expands those skills and advances their capabilities and knowledge. It gives nurses the chance to meet people and enhance their professional networks. And it can be inspirational and empowering,” said Sue Hassmiller, a registered nurse (RN) and Ph.D., with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Overall, healthcare professionals agree having more nurses on boards can be impactful in the communities they serve. For nurses, including DNPs, the first step to making this change is getting on these boards.
Experts say the best way to be seated on a board is to start locally and build a rapport with the community. Since every charity has a governing body that is responsible for overseeing organizations, there are scores of opportunities to serve.
In the analysis, “Serving on Organizational Boards: What Nurses Need to Know,” researchers outlined six competencies that enhance a nurse’s ability to serve on boards and committees. The first four focus on building a competent group, which applies to all board members. The last two focus on the group process. They are as follows:
Before committing to any board or committee, nurses should review their professional abilities to ensure they understand the topic and can contribute appropriately.
Different boards serve different purposes. For example, governing boards determine an organization’s direction, while foundation boards solicit fundraising opportunities. Novice nurses should review bylaws, charters, and descriptions to better understand the overall procedures.
Most boards in the United States adopt Robert’s Rules of Order to govern meetings. This protocol sets a standard procedure in meetings to maintain professionalism and order. When Robert’s Rules of Order are applied, the typical meeting format includes the following:
Board members are expected to understand the basics of Robert’s Rules of Order. Depending on the organization, some meetings are open to the public. Special meetings, also called executive sessions, are also held to discuss private business.
The best meetings are run with an end goal and time in mind. Board members who are late or unprepared slow the process and are a drag on time. Nurses should determine if they can make the appropriate time and energy commitment before accepting a board position.
It is the board chair’s responsibility to ensure meetings are held in adherence to all ethical and legal standards. This includes protecting the right to free speech. At the same time, each member of the board is expected to adhere to ethical norms and legal standards to ensure personal accountability when dealing with board and personal business.
It is the responsibility of all board members to safeguard civility and order during all meetings. The chair leads meetings, but board members are allowed to speak in turn.
The authors of the analysis, which ran in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, also said nurses who serve on boards should commit to being active participants in the process. Such a commitment includes reading agendas, asking questions, communicating ideas, and representing the nursing profession.
“The call for nurses to serve on boards is important because nurses provide a unique perspective in the healthcare arena. Serving on boards allows nurses to partner with other leaders to promote change and advance health,” the authors said.
Such as statement is particularly true for DNPs, who are trained to take roles in policy, practice, and decision-making. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) said DNP should take leadership roles.
In assuming board positions, DNPs can advocate for patient health programs, influence healthcare policy, and assist in crafting new healthcare strategies. DNP students learn decision-making skills to translate evidence-based practices and research into everyday care. As a terminal degree, or the highest practice degree, in nursing, the DNP is evidence of expertise in nursing and healthcare. It also shows dedication and commitment to population health.
Duquesne University’s online DNP program trains advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) to manage the many evolving roles in the field, including decision-making responsibilities. Students who work toward a DNP at Duquesne University’s online program have the added advantage of being able to continue their career while pursuing the degree. The school’s DNP program builds on existing knowledge and skills to provide a comprehensive education for roles in public policy and leadership. For more information, visit DU’s online DNP program website.