Nurses seek louder voice in decisions

A new committee began last week with the aim of giving nurses more say in health care.

by Danielle Korby

Nurses make up the largest portion of the health care workforce, but in many cases they have little say about the policies that govern the field.

In an attempt to strengthen nurses’ voices in health care policy, the American Academy of Nursing’s Institute for Nursing Leadership began its work as a full committee last week — just one effort in a larger national push to encourage nurses to participate on governing boards.

The institute’s members began work on a plan to find appointments for nurses on governing boards, like housing commissions and committees that oversee health care in the military, at a meeting last week, said President of the American Academy of Nursing Diana Mason.

University of Minnesota Doctor of Nursing Practice student Oriana Beaudet is on the board for Common Bond, a Minnesota AIDS project, and said she hopes to become a fellow with the Institute for Nursing Leadership.

“I think this is such a dynamic point in health care history to be able to make really impactful changes,” Beaudet said. “Getting nurses involved in boards gives them a platform to highlight their skills and strengths.”

In 2011, the Institute of Medicine issued a report that recommended nurses increase their presence on governing boards to improve the health care system.

In response, the Institute for Nursing Leadership started to look for committees and boards where nurses are underrepresented.

The institute also contributes to a national campaign from the Nurses on Boards Coalition that aims to place 10,000 nurses on various governing boards by the year 2020.

Susan Hassmiller, the coalition’s director, said many nurses are too busy with day-to-day responsibilities to realize the importance of their voices in health policy.

Michele Kimball, a member of the advocacy group Minnesota Action Coalition, said she has served on many health-care-focused boards, but few nurses have been members of them.

“I think the nurse tends to be thought of more as a workhorse and less of a valuable partner with incredible contributions,” Kimball said.

Amy Gordon, a family nurse practitioner in the Twin Cities, said the nurses she has worked with are busy and often don’t have time to serve on boards.

“There’s no way to work on a night shift and then go work on a governing board during the day,” Gordon said.

Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, works as a nurse and said those in her profession can advocate for patients because they understand their needs.

“The more that we see nurses seated at those tables of power, the better I think we will do in pursuit of the health for people,” she said.

President of the American Academy of Nursing Diana Mason said the Institute for Nursing Leadership is surveying its members to identify holes in nurse representation on governing boards in order to potentially fill them. The institute’s next step will be to teach nurses about getting a spot on one.