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For Organizations

A Nurse Serving on a BoardIf your company or nonprofit is thinking of adding a registered nurse (RN) to your board — or even if it isn’t — consider the following. According to Gallup, in the US for the past 15 consecutive years, one profession was voted the most honest and ethical: Nurses. And by a long shot: Last year, for example, 84% of Americans rated nurses’ honesty and ethics as “high” or “very high” —13 percentage points higher than any other profession.

It’s no surprise, then, that nurses possess several key competencies that specifically qualify them for service on a board, committee, or commission. As outlined in Connie Curran’s book, Nurse on Board, and elsewhere, these include:

  • A holistic view. RNs are able to recognize the implications of decisions on others.
  • Compatibility. Nurses excel at working in teams across varying disciplines — they do so every day.
  • Accountability. The nature of a nurse’s work dictates that when he or she says they’ll do something, they do it. A hospital ward has little room for unreliability.
  • Ethics and integrity. Nurses are indelibly known for both. (Remember the Gallup poll?)
  • Operations experience. RNs bring an ability to proactively anticipate and make decisions with full consideration of risk management and other contingencies.
  • Strong communication skills. These include listening skills at a strategic level — an ability to hear what is being said as well as what is not.
  • The ability to take bold action when necessary.
  • A focus on outcome-based decision making and servant leadership.

Because of the nature of their training and profession, RNs excel at getting things done and working cooperatively — essential skills for the boardroom. They are exceptional communicators and proven collaborators; they listen closely and respond calmly. Their diverse experience makes them ideal for service in a wide variety of board-related settings.

As Kimberly McNalley, (MN, RN, BCC), a coach and consultant who helps organizations achieve board-management alignment and increase board effectiveness, writes:

“A board member or trustee with a nursing background brings a unique voice to governance….[including] expertise in and valuable perspectives about community health, quality, safety, patient experience, workforce development, staff engagement, and financial stewardship. Nurses can offer new ideas to address challenges and frame opportunities as health care transformation occurs.”

The bottom line? Adding a nurse to your board of directors could provide an essential understanding of humanity and a set of skills certain to serve nearly any for- or nonprofit.