Jan 19, 2012

Nurse Leaders in the Boardroom: A Fitting Choice

This paper was published in the January/February 2012 issue of the Journal of Healthcare Management, Volume 57, Number 1. An excerpt of the article and the link to download the full article are available.

Excerpt: Take a look at the makeup of most hospital and health system boards of directors. You might find a community philanthropist, a banker, a partner in a prestigious law firm, several successful business executives, and perhaps a physician. But chances are you won’t find a nurse.

While nurses act in leadership roles in many healthcare settings, they remain largely overlooked for board positions—the highest level of organizational leadership. A recent survey of more than 1,000 hospital boards (AHA 2011) found that just 6 percent of board members were nurses; 20 percent were physicians.

The reasons behind this omission are worth exploring. After reviewing the board leadership of more than 200 health systems and interviewing many of their members, researcher Lawrence Prybil (2009) theorized that gender bias, the outdated perception that nurses do not have leadership skills, and lack of understanding of nurses’ roles in determining care quality could be preventing decision makers from considering nurses as board members. Another factor may be concerns that nurses are largely focused on their profession and will act more as employee representatives than in the interest of their healthcare institution (Prybil 2009), although the appointment of physicians does not appear to arouse such fears.

John Combes, MD, President and Chief Operating Officer, Center for Healthcare Governance