Nurses take note: You are more prepared to sit on the board than you think

Nobody is ever 'completely ready'

Nurses play a vital role in caring for patients, and hospitals and health systems need board members who have clinical experience. But despite this, only six percent of hospital board members are nurses, according to the most recent data from the American Hospital Association.

"Nurses can be incredibly valuable to boards," says Rachel Polhemus, a senior partner at recruiting firm Witt/Kieffer. "But many nurses don't feel like they are well prepared for the task."

Polhemus outlines four ways that nurses can build experience and prepare themselves to serve on their hospital's or system's board.

Learn what skills your board needs


To ensure the board is well rounded, each board has a list of skills required for their members. Nurses should know what competencies the board is looking for so they can tailor their experiences accordingly.


"It's really thinking about 'How do I build my resume to be on a board that I'm attractive to, the right kinds of boards I want to serve on,'" Polhemus says.


Start in community leadership roles

Nurses usually aren't ready to jump onto a hospital board immediately—in fact, almost no one is. It's important to gain experience through leadership opportunities in the community. Working on a local not-for-profit board, such as a rotary club, will give you experience and expose you to the inner workings and responsibilities of a board position.  


Fully understand your board's mission

Polhemus recommends talking with the chair of the board and other hospital leaders to fully understand the board's mission and how that can align with your professional goals. If you don't know the board's long-term strategy, it can be difficult to ascertain how good of a fit you would be.

You'll never be completely prepared—and that's OK

It's expected that all new board members will learn skills on the job, Polhemus says. Don't be afraid if you aren't fully up to speed on your first day; you can help ease the process by gaining experience and forming strong relationships with mentors.

But while "no one's going to come completely ready," Polhemus says, "you want to make certain the board supports your on-boarding process" (Gooch, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/15).

How to prepare nurses for leadership roles

The National Prescription for Nurse Engagement

It's more important than ever for frontline nurses to be engaged in their work, committed to their organization's mission, and capable of delivering high-quality care in a complex and constantly changing environment.

This report identifies the unique challenges of engaging nurses and equips nurse leaders with five strategies for building a highly engaged workforce.

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