Emily walks in the door, slumping into her kitchen chair putting her head between her hands as a tear rolls down her cheek.
“How was work?” her husband hesitantly inquires.
“Oh… you know, the same old nonsense.” Emily sighs.
Emily had been trying for weeks to persuade the CEOs of several hospitals to put nurses in their administration board rooms, but to no avail.
“Nurses aren’t paid enough”, “nurses aren’t as educated as other board room members", they would say.
There was always some excuse for executives to push the issue at hand back into some forgotten corner.
Although Emily was having a moment of weakness, she will continue to press forward, striving to make a difference. Even though some may believe that nurses do not deserve to be in the boardroom, nurses will be a great benefit to hospital boardrooms. With their hands on experience in the hospitals, nurses can make both economic and empathetic decisions about changes to be made in hospitals. For this reason and many more nurses are advocating to be part of hospital hierarchy.
What is a Hospital Boardroom? What is its Function?
To understand the immense difference that nurses could make being in this administrative position it is important to understand what this position entails. “The purpose of a board is to oversee, to provide guidance…It's not to manage. It's to provide strategy and in the case of hospitals, it is to make sure you're meeting the needs of the community and stakeholders"(Pecci). Nurses will be a great asset in assisting the purpose of the board, but sadly these board are often almost entirely made up of doctors and physicians. With only six percent of boardroom members being nurses, something needs to change.
Nurses can play a large role in helping board rooms fulfill their purpose. They have both the hands-on experience as well as the economic sense to make a difference in this way. One RN and veteran member of multiple boards says, “nurses understand a lot of the practical things that affect cost and quality because they deal with it every day,” (Pecci). Nurses are the inside man, they see what goes on in all aspects of a hospital and they understand what decisions are actually practical and what are not. This perspective will really help in hospital upper management. Often decisions are made and then they fail because they were made by people who don’t quite understand the practical application. This is because most board room members do not deal with the practical application. They are not in the midst of the workplace; they can only view it from the outside. This is why it is so important to have the inside man in order to have the inside view of what needs to happen.
A Majority Representative
Having a nursing representative will give the hospital staff a voice. With the hospital staff being largely made up of the nurses and nursing assistants, it seems outlandish that they are not in management. This is like the minority leading the majority. The majority’s voice, though booming with hundreds of people, is never heard. There needs to be a member of this so called majority in board rooms to help represent the people. “Nurses comprise the largest single component of hospital staff, are the primary providers of hospital patient care, and deliver most of the nation's long-term care”, and yet they are still underrepresented in board room (Nursing Fact Sheet). This nursing representative will be able to persuade the board to help make things better for the majority, not just the minority. In this way they will be able to be able to contribute, not just to the patient care as earlier discussed, but also to staff satisfaction.
Three Common Excuses
Nurse will be very valuable in the positions discussed, so why aren’t more hospitals jumping with joy at the thought of having a nurse in the board room? When asked to make these changes often board directors have several excuses.
The first excuse is: “Where do we find a nurse?”
To this it can be restated that nurses still make up the “largest segment of professionals working in the healthcare industry” (Nursing Fact Sheet). To make this more clear there are 3.l million nurses in the United States. It might be fair to say that with these odds if you threw a rock, you would hit a nurse. This is not even facetious if the rock is thrown in the medical workplace. Just step outside the boardroom office and nurses are everywhere. By 2020, nursing associations hope not only to see nurses as you walk out of these offices, but also walking in.
“Getting 10,000 nurses on corporate and non-profit health-related boards of directors by the year 2020 is the goal of the new Nurses on Boards Coalition, comprised of 21 national nursing associations” (Top 5 Nursing Issues for 2015). These nursing associations are trying to make this information available to fight the second excuse for not having nurses in the board room: board room executives having “never thought of” having nurses on the board.
The third and most substantial question generally asked is, “are nurses qualified?”
The answer to this concern can be seen through the history of nursing. Throughout history, nurses have played a major role in influencing the world and the medical field. For example, Florence Nightingale was a nurse who changed history. Not only this, but nursing has changed throughout history. Previously nursing was a job or service, requiring little to no formal education. Contrarily, nurses are now required to have a minimum of one year of formal nursing school and many go on to get bachelors and master’s degrees. Nurses with specific master’s degrees are “qualified” to perform the same tasks as a doctor and anesthesiologist. With these changes in formal education, other changes need to be considered. Nurse are obviously educationally qualified and, as seen throughout history, they are able to make a difference in the medical field no matter what their social standing may be. Although looked down upon, nurse continue to make great strides in the medical field and will help hospitals make these strides if executives make the changes that are necessary.
Is Sexism Keeping Nurses Out of the Boardroom?
One of the main reason nurses aren’t already on many board in America springs from the roots of sexism. This may be one of the greatest obstacles, because it is not just about changing managements view on nurse’s contribution it is about changing their view on women. Statistically speaking, it is very unlikely for a nurse to be on a boardroom, not because nurse are not welcome but because woman aren’t. As stated before, nurses make up only six percent of board room positions. This is not surprising when only 16.9 percent of these positions are held by woman and the majority or nurses are woman (Pecci).
Historically, nurses were woman who wanted to make a difference in the war. Not a ton has changed in this regard. With an extreme majority of nurses being female, the odds of making it to the board room are slim, 16.9 percent slim. With these odds it’s no wonder why more nurses aren’t in the board room. Today nurses are still fighting the war: the war against sexism. One hospital board veteran RN said "It's not the old boys club anymore. We really need board members who are passionate about patient care and are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard on behalf of patients"(Pecci). Nurses and women prove their ability to do just that as they work day in and day out to help improve the lives of others in the work place.
Nurses will prove a great asset to hospital board rooms. Not only do they represent the majority but they are also useful in balancing cost verses patient well being and will be a benefit in making positive choices that help both patient and shareholders. With their work experiences, these decisions will be practical because nurses understand through experience, how a hospital runs. For these reasons and many more make nurses perfect candidates for a hospital board room. This is why Nurses like Emily and people like you should advocate to have nurse in your local boardrooms. This change will not only change hospitals, it will change lives.
Nursing Fact Sheet. (2011, April 12). Retrieved December 8, 2015, from http://www.aacn.nche.edu/media-relations/fact-sheets/nursing-fact-sheet
Pecci, A. (2014, August 12). No Nurses on Your Hospital Board? Why Not? Retrieved December 7, 2015, from http://healthleadersmedia.com/content.cfm?content_id=307312&page=1&topic=NRS
Top 5 Nursing Issues for 2015 - HealthLeaders Media. (n.d.). Retrieved December 7, 2015, from http://healthleadersmedia.com/slideshow.cfm?content_id=310804&pg=1
A Nurses Cry for Help. Digital image. Nursingworldnigeria.com. N.p., 01 May 2015. Web. 08 Dec. 2015.