Our nation needs more nurses on boards

By | 2020-07-14T09:09:41-04:00 November 28th, 2018|3 Comments

Nurses are in the perfect position to serve on a variety of boards, especially in healthcare.

Our voices are important because of our education and experience across many healthcare settings and specialties, as well as consistently being named the most honest and trustworthy profession by the American public. It was with these beliefs in mind — and a lot of hard work — the Nurses on Boards Coalition was born.

In 2010, the landmark Institute of Medicine report, “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” made clear in one of its recommendations that nurses must have an increased number of seats and have decision-making roles on various boards and commissions working on improving healthcare in America.

Following this dictum, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and AARP came together in a collaborative effort comprised of nurses from nursing and healthcare organizations, to implement the IOM recommendation. They formed the Campaign for Action to build healthier communities.

“Let us be clear: we believe inviting more nurse leaders to the boardroom will improve the board’s effectiveness and efficiency in addressing the compelling business case to improve the patient experience,” wrote Laurie Benson, BSN, RN, executive director of the Nurses on Boards Coalition, and Susan Hassmiller, RN, PhD, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action, an initiative of AARP Foundation, AARP and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

As part of these efforts, the Nurses on Boards Coalition was formed in 2014, with the goal of having 10,000 nurses on boards nationwide by the year 2020 and defining the boards they would serve on as “decision-making bodies with strategic influence to improve the health of communities nationwide.”

The coalition’s guiding principle is the idea that “building healthier communities in America requires the involvement of more nurses on corporate, health-related and other boards, panels and commissions.” 

In 2015, the Nurses on Boards Coalition launched a website, which has more details about the coalition, including a database to track the number of nurses serving on board positions.

To learn more and see the current count, visit the Nurses on Boards Coalition website.

Progress in placing nurses on boards

Information regarding nursing’s value on boards and how by education, background and experience they can contribute to them has been promulgated at programs and in seminars and has been filling the nursing literature since the Nurses on Boards Coalition was formed.

The coalition reported a total of nearly 5,000 nurses on boards earlier this year, a number which has continued to grow in the months since.

To underscore their progress regarding new numbers, the update pointed out that board and governance roles nurses already had within the profession were not being counted toward the goal, and that the coalition was measuring progress and impact to improve health beyond the profession across the nation.

“Board service can be rewarding to nurses both personally and professionally,” said Susan Hassmiller, PhD, RN, FAAN, senior adviser for nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and director of the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action. She also is the driving force behind the coalition. “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.”

How to get involved

There also has been a good deal of involvement from many professional nursing organizations, and with a goal of 10,000 nurses on boards by 2020 and the current number showing approximately half of that, we’re doing pretty good.

The Nurses on Boards Coalition includes the following organizations:

Check the number as it grows on the coalition’s website. Get involved and get your facilities involved — every facility needs to make room at their table for nursing’s voice.

Take time to learn about the hospital board member/trustee role in this overview of the hospital board member/trustee role. Find out what they do and why they love it.

And if you have recently become or are soon to become a board member, please share your story and help the number grow.

Halfway there is great — we can do this.


Take these courses on participating in boards and developing your leadership skills:

Increasing Your Nursing Influence Through Leadership: Boards!
(1 contact hr)

Nurses are influential and trusted. As a profession, nursing has been rated as one of the most honest and ethical for well over a decade. With the trust that nurses have merited from the public, what is a significant way for nurses to impact public and community health? Active involvement on boards! One of the goals of the significant The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report was that nurses practice to the best of their capacity including pursuing leadership positions to improve healthcare in America. Nurses are key leaders that should be at the forefront of decision-making to improve the health of communities. Learn key info about why and how joining a board, commission, or coalition can help you influence public health with the skills you already hold! The Nurses on Boards Coalition has a goal: 10,000 nurses as members of various boards by 2020.

Developing Your Leadership Potential
(6.8 contact hrs)

As the largest healthcare profession in the U.S. and the profession positioned on the front line of patient care, nurses are crucial for leading change and advancing health. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Institute of Medicine made recommendations to transform the nursing profession in their report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health.” A key message from the report is the recommendation that nurses be full partners together with physicians and other healthcare professionals in redesigning the country’s healthcare system. This activity will provide practical strategies to help you develop your personal plan for developing your leadership potential regardless of your chosen career path.

Learning to Lead
(5 contact hrs)
All nurses are leaders. They not only support patients in doing what they are unable to do for themselves, but they also manage their care and lead them toward a vision and personal goal of better health. Most nurses find themselves in a position to lead a group of colleagues in a team or on a patient care unit. The concepts in this course focus on the skills to manage the patient, as well as a staff caring for an entire group of patients. Implementing leadership and management strategies — such as conflict resolution, interprofessional communication, coaching, delegation and assessment — is outlined and demonstrated in case examples.

About the Author:

Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN
Eileen Williamson, MSN, RN, continues to write and act as a consultant for Nurse.com. Before joining the company in 1998, Eileen was employed by North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in New York (now Northwell Health System) where she held a number of leadership positions in nursing and hospital administration, including chief nurse at two of their System hospitals. She holds a BSN and an MSN in nursing administration and is a graduate fellow of the Johnson & Johnson University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Nurse Executives program. A former board member and past president of the New Jersey League for Nursing, a constituent league of the National League for Nursing, Eileen currently is a member of the Adelphi University, College of Nursing and Public Health Advisory Board.


  1. Avatar
    Keiko December 9, 2018 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    I think the issue is those nurse leaders tend not knowing true bed side (or home care/community care) needs, because there is a huge gap between leadership and bedside.

  2. Avatar
    Donna J. Fanelli, DNP December 9, 2018 at 8:03 pm - Reply

    Yes, the face of nursing must have seat at the boardroom table. To truly be recognized and affect change in healthcare, the face of nursing must be present on corporate boards in addition to those of associations.

  3. Avatar
    Julienne Thibeau December 19, 2018 at 6:19 pm - Reply

    Many in Leadership have been in their position for years and have forgotten what or how nursing works. Unfortunately I have seen this. What does this show to those staff nurses who rely on the organizational and leadership of their supervisor’s or directors? I agree that staff nurses should be included on nursing and corporate board meetings. They have ideas to be proactive in patient safety and also to show how to help with budgetary issues.
    Julienne Thibeau MSN RN CNOR

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