One of the four key messages of the groundbreaking 2010 Institute of Medicine report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health” instructed nurses to engage and cooperate with other healthcare professionals to help reshape healthcare in America. Encouraged by this call, states have formed action coalitions across the country to help nurses respond.
Locally, the New Jersey Action Coalition has been active by helping interested nurses obtain seats on government boards in an effort to help encourage positive change from the inside out.
Aline Holmes, RN, MSN, APNC, senior vice president of clinical affairs for the New Jersey Hospital Association, works through the New Jersey Action Coalition as a liaison between nurses and the government. Holmes is in charge of recruitment and reaching out to local nurses who have expressed interest in serving on a government board. She has a pool of about 125 New Jersey nurses who are interested in serving on statewide councils or community boards, which she draws on when spots become available.
Mary Anne Marra, RN, MSN, NEA-BC, was one of those nurses. The CNE at Bergen Regional Medical Center in Ridgewood, N.J., was appointed to Greystone Park Psychiatric Hospitals board of trustees in November. She has served on the board at Northern New Jersey Maternal/Child Heath Consortium since 2009, but never a board for a state facility.David Moore, RN
Marra said she would not have known about the position if New Jersey nurses hadnt developed a process to reach out to her. Holmes, who had Marras resume on hand, informed Marra of the vacancy. After Marra received approval from her hospital to move forward, her appointment went to the governor for final approval.
Though new to the position, Marra said she thinks there is a real benefit to having nurses on boards because they bring their knowledge to sit on the board with them. “Nurses can bring very substantial thought to the board of trustee process,” she said.
The way nurses are educated, as well as their work history, can make them good candidates, Marra said. She thinks nurses sometimes have a broader scope of the needs of the organization and can bring a lot to the table.
The appointment process can take time, however. Marra said her appointment took roughly two months. David Moore, RN, BC, MSN, is waiting for final approval from the governor for an appointment to the board of directors at Ancora Psychiatric Hospital in Hammonton, N.J.
Moore, the administrative director of mental Health Services at South Jersey Healthcare in Bridgeton, N.J., has sat on several boards in the past.
It is essential for nurses to sit on boards, he said. Diversity across the table is always key, Moore said, and including a nurse on a board to be an advocate and the eyes of the patient is important.
“If you want nurses to advance the science of nursing and be the advocates we were trained to be, then we must look beyond the day-to-day and look at a long-range plan,” he said. “What better place than on a board of directors?”
Since most nurses have not served on boards, the New Jersey Hospital Association in Princeton held a half-day program to help prepare and encourage them. The May 9 event, called “Nurses in the Boardroom,” was geared toward nurses who are serving on boards or are interested in serving on one in the future, Holmes said. At the end of the workshop, nurses had a better understanding of board governance, structures and responsibilities.