In 2017, the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC) was founded with the mission “to improve health in communities across the nation through the service of nurses on all types of boards.
Laurie Benson, BSN, Executive Director of NOBC says that “The vision of NOBC was created in direct response to The Institute of Medicine’s 2011 landmark report, ‘The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,’ which called for nurses to play a more pivotal decision-making role on boards and commissions. NOBC represents national nursing and other organizations working to build healthier communities in America by increasing the presence of nurses on corporate, health-related, and other boards, panels, and commissions.”
Benson answered some questions about NOBC.
Why is it important for nurses to be a part of boards? What do they bring to the table that other health care workers don’t?
All boards can benefit from the nursing perspective. Nurses possess a wide range of skills including strategic planning, critical thinking, quality and process improvement, communications, human resources, finance, and complex problem solving. Accustomed to working in teams, nurses fit naturally into the boardroom environment. Always connected to the mission, they understand the challenges, opportunities, and implications of decisions on many levels. Other health care workers certainly make important contributions to the boardroom as well. Nurses welcome the opportunity to serve alongside colleagues and other leaders to make a collective impact.
With 3.6 million nurses in our country, nurses represent the largest segment of our health care workforce. It simply makes good business sense to have the nursing perspective representedin all places where decisions and policies affecting health are made including corporate, governmental, nonprofit, advisory, governance boards, commissions, and panels or task forces that have fiduciary or strategic responsibility.
Is this just to encourage NPs to be on boards or nurses of any rank and experience level? Why?
There is a place in the boardroom for nurses across the continuum. While certain boards require specific rank and experience, many seek candidates at a variety of levels of experience and practice, especially with the increased emphasis on bringing diverse perspectives into the boardroom. Boards are most interested in how a candidate will contribute and bring value to discussions in the boardroom. With each board opportunity, NOBC makes sure we understand the profile of the ideal candidate and then match the opportunity with the skills, experience, qualifications, and interests of those registered in the NOBC database as interested in serving.
A few recent examples include a doctoral graduate who was invited to serve on a nonprofit board for an organization that provides respite care for parents and families of children with daily medical needs; another nurse (BSN, RN) with less than 5 years of experience was invited to serve on an advisory board for a national company who was seeking wider generational representation; and a faculty member (DNP, RN, CNE, NEA-BC), who will soon be retiring, was selected to serve on the board of a national health care start up organization focused on care of the aging. There are unprecedented opportunities for nurses to serve on boards in every community across our nation!
Has this been started more because nurses weren’t seeking board positions, boards weren’t seeking nurses as members, or both? Please explain.
NOBC wasn’t started for nursing, it was started by nursing. National nursing association leaders came together with one purpose in mind—to work together to improve health for all. However, not all boards are necessarily aware of the growing interest, demand, and impact of nurses serving on boards. NOBC members, partners, sponsors, state contacts, and others are doing a great job in increasing the awareness and visibility of the expansive and exceptional nurse candidate pool that is available to all boards.
What are nurses’ roles on boards?
Board governance is an extension of leadership. As leaders, nurses can serve effectively in all types of governance roles based on the structure and specific needs of each board. Nurses serve as Board Chairs, Board Committee Chairs, Committee members or at-large members—wherever the need matches with their skills, interests, and their ability to contribute value. The varied roles for nurses on boards are the same as for others serving on the boards. Boards contribute collectively, not based on the individual board members. Nurses especially thrive when serving on high performance boards, serving as a contributor toward the good of the whole.
Suppose a nurse would like to join a particular board. What should he or she do to pursue it?
Nurses who are interested in serving on a board should start with your passion! Next, conduct a self-assessment and prepare a one-page board biography. Build your skills through nursing leadership resources and talk to other nurse leaders to learn from their experience. Let others know of your interest in serving on a board and contact an organization whose mission aligns with your interests. Register on the NOBC website at www.nursesonboardscoalition.org to be included in the database for consideration for future board opportunities and to access many resources to support you on your board journey.
Be bold! You don’t need to wait until you have all the answers to pursue a board opportunity. Remember, there will be others on the board who have complementary skills and experience to round out the board composition. While you will be providing a valuable contribution through your board service, nurses always tell us they get so much more from the experience than they could ever hope to give. Create an action plan today to raise your voice in a boardroom that is right for you!
What else is important about the Coalition and its mission that is important for our readers to know?
We are experiencing great momentum and success! The NOBC current thermometer count is at 5,724 board seats toward our key strategy of 10,000 by 2020. I invite you to join us in this important work. Please contact me at [email protected] to explore how we can collaborate to make a significant impact, together, where you live and work.
Lastly, if you serve on a board, please consider a nurse as a candidate for your next board seat!