smiling lead nurses stands in front of her nurse team

As healthcare reform continues, it is becoming increasingly clear that hospitals need to focus on improving the quality of care delivery. One of the most valuable ways of achieving a balance between healthcare cost, quality and accessibility is the addition of nurse leaders to hospital boards. In moving toward a more value-driven basis for healthcare delivery, hospital boards can benefit from tapping resources that have clinical care expertise and a thorough understanding of patient and community needs (Totten, 2010). Nurse leaders generally have strong communication skills, decision-making ability, management, and leadership experience. These traits are not only important in managing an efficient and effective facility, but contribute positively to effective leadership at the board level.

Hospital Boards with Nurses Lead to Better Performance

According to a recent report from Ernst & Young (EY), nurses and women are underrepresented on hospital boards (Nurse Leader Insider, 2013). Although nurses form the majority of the workforce, only a very small percentage of nurses are hospital board members. In addition, the report also found that the diversity of board members’ backgrounds, fields of study and gender allows for better performance of the board as a whole. The report encourages boards to make member diversity a priority and to look for directors who have different life experiences from one another, as this diversity can help an organization better understand its varied customer base (Nurse Insider, 2013).

The EY report also found that the rate at which women are joining boards as a percentage of new board members is increasing, and that boards that already have at least one female director are the most likely to add more (Diversity Inc , 2013). Yet research on nonprofit hospital governing boards indicates that only about 2% of their current members are nurses (Totten, 2010). Since an organization’s performance depends on the effectiveness and engagement of its nursing staff as well as its physicians, more nurses should step up to the task of serving on hospital boards. Nurses have the most contact with patients, families and physicians, and thus have an in-depth knowledge of healthcare delivery that could prove valuable to a board of trustees on relevant issues (Totten, 2010).

In 2007, the Center for Healthcare Governance’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Health Care Governance recommended that boards “include physicians, nurses and other clinicians on the board. Their clinical competence and viewpoints are valuable to other board members and will help the board better understand the needs and concerns of several of the organization’s stakeholders” (Totten, 2010).

Nurses also have in-depth knowledge of healthcare delivery that could prove valuable to a board of trustees on relevant issues. In addition, nurse leaders possess important attributes that make them a key asset for healthcare organization governing boards, such as credibility with stakeholders and patients, and a hands-on understanding of issues concerning hospital staff. Nurses need to embrace the ever-increasing opportunities in healthcare to participate in governance and decision-making. offers several leadership courses to help you prepare for this role, including topics on preceptor education, patient advocacy, HIPAA overview, Core Measures and much more.


  • Diversity Inc (2013). Getting On Board: Women Join Boards At Higher Rates, But Progress Comes Slowly. Retrieved from Diversity Inc.
  • Nurse Leader Insider (2013). Nurses needed on hospital boards. HCPro: Nurse Leader Insider, July 25, 2013. Retrieved from Nurse Leader Insider
  • Totten, M. (2010). Nurses on Healthcare Boards: A smart and logical move to make. Center for Healthcare Governance, Healthcare Executive, May/June 2010. Retrieved from Nurses on Healthcare Boards

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