Nurses’ skills, experiences, leadership, and voices are more relevant than ever before, and more and more ONS members are sharing their knowledge and expertise beyond the bedside to improve health throughout the community.
Although national boards get all the press, most of the country’s change happens through community boards’ programs and plans. No matter their purpose, community boards rely on a diverse makeup to provide a variety of insight and innovation. Nurses represent the largest segment of the healthcare workforce, and their perspective at decision-making tables is essential.
“Nurses are not aware of how influential they can be, and as a society, ONS makes sure that our members are aware of how important their voices are, whether in advocacy work or memberships on boards,” ONS President Nancy Houlihan, MA, RN, AOCN®, said. “We can help nurses to develop as leaders, which can give them that voice that they can then apply to other work that can be influential.”
Today, more than 10,000 nurses are serving on boards across the United States, thanks to the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC), of which ONS is a member. Created in response to the 2010 National Academy of Medicine report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the coalition is improving community health throughout the United States by supporting nurse representation on boards and other bodies.
“By serving on a board, nurses can address issues such as systematic racism, educational and healthcare racism, nutritional deserts, and healthcare deserts. The coalition makes sure that nurses applying to those positions are well prepared to take on that role,” ONS member Laura Benson, RN, MS, ANP, member of the Long Island/Queens ONS Chapter and ONS representative on the NOBC board, said.
ONS member Beatrice Miller, RN, BSN, MS, CCM, OCN®, represents nursing on the board of directors for EveryMind in Rockville, MD. EveryMind advocates for mental health awareness and provides the community with mental health services and programs.
“Bringing your perspective as a professional nurse to boards or committees is powerful,” Miller said. “Serving on a board gives you an opportunity to learn how to work collaboratively with people in different areas and in oncology nursing. It helps us to see and understand how we fit into the puzzle. Getting involved in your community can help drive you to the next level.”
Her work on the board has connected Miller with mental health professionals, lawyers, accountants, and many others, and she’s seen the rewards of that collaboration firsthand in her involvement in the board’s operation and decision-making.
Both Benson and Miller said that nurses looking to make the first step to get involved in a board should recognize the power they hold as a healthcare professional. Realize your potential as a nurse to make a difference in every part of the community, not just public health.
“It’s important to walk up the ladder of experience, and to not minimize the connections you make while on these boards,” Benson said. “It is the soft touches of being on a local board that gives you the exposure needed to serve on a county board, which then goes on to a state board or a national board.”
Additionally, NOBC has a plethora of resources for nurses who are just starting out in board leadership. Those who sign up can view open board positions throughout the country and be added to those 10,000 nurses serving on boards once they begin their journey. NOBC also offers courses and webinars, Benson said, that can assist in all areas from governing to finance and everything in between.