The Reason I Serve

For advice and inspiration, we invite you to read the real life experiences from nurses serving on all types of boards, large and small, local and national, healthcare and non-healthcare related to learn more about their paths to the boardroom.

Judith M. Scott

In your view, why is it important for nurses to serve on boards? It is the responsibility of all citizens to offer leadership and expertise where it can benefit the larger population, and this includes nurses. I tell my students this at every opportunity. Share an experience of how you have made an impact serving on boards. This is my first board experience, but I have had several amazing experiences. During the pandemic, I was able to interview older residents of the county, collect the research data, and share the findings with the City of Colorado Springs, Without the board experience, this would not be likely. What advise do you have for nurses serving on a board? Don’t discount what you know as a nurse, even if you do not have board experience. Growth in leadership is an unfolding process, and it comes with service.

Boards: ANA, Colorado Nurses Association, STTI, APHA, CPHA, ACHNE
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When you first join a board, especially as a nurse, take the time to observe the process for a few meetings and personally introduce yourself to other board members and staff assisting the board. Include a personal introduction to the secretary taking minutes. After you have a good sense of the board’s culture and procedures, don’t sit quietly through meetings: establish your presence! First: interact, ask questions, challenge assumptions. Asking questions is a powerful and non-confrontational way to learn and, often, contribute to discussions. Second: be knowledgeable about board business – and that often goes beyond clinical issues and nursing. Get involved in discussions that involve infrastructure, physician relations, risk and malpractice, strategy, etc. If you only speak up on nursing and clinical issues, you will lose credibility among your board peers, and lose the opportunity to bring the nursing perspective to broader issues. For example, I served on the Summa Health System Board of Directors for 13 years.  My contribution to board activities and priorities most often concerned clinical and personnel issues, which I understood in much greater depth than other board members did, who lacked this background.One time, I brought the results of my own research to a discussion on reducing hospital readmissions results: namely, that polypharmacy in our patients contributed significantly to our readmission rate. This issue was not strictly a “nursing” issue, but my nursing perspective completely changed the way the board thought about the problem. The other board members had an “a-ha!” moment, and we were able to propose a solution that included my research as a nurse.Being a nurse on the board of a large organization can often mean that you’re the underdog.  Instead of staying in that intimidating space, try to see it as an opportunity to surprise your fellow board members with your unique perspective and contributions.  As nurses, we all know the value and knowledge we bring to to the strategy table, it’s time to confidently assert that knowledge to the broader world!

Place of Employment: Emergency Department at The University of Utah Hospital Which Nursing Organizations are you currently a member of: ENA Tell us about your journey into nursing leadership. What inspired you to seek a leadership position? My path to nursing, and thus nursing leadership, is somewhat non-traditional as I spent 20 years in healthcare administration, policy, and finance consulting before becoming an RN. After earning my nursing degree, I initially focused on becoming more comfortable and confident in the nursing role, allowing the leadership opportunities to develop when the time was right. Recently, our department sought to fill several charge nurse positions, replacing some who were moving on to new roles and easing the burden on the pool of nurses who were seeing us through the current pandemic. I saw this as an opportunity to help both department leadership and staff maintain a positive, supportive, and constructive culture during the on-going response and into the future of our department. What do you do to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a leader?  Building relationships is critical – Not only with staff in the emergency department, but leaders and staff throughout the organization whom I will likely interact with at some point. Getting to know them and understand “their world” will be helpful when we are faced with a challenge or opportunity down the road. Also, frequently engaging with others outside my organization, through organizational memberships or continuing education opportunities is important. These relationships keep my perspective fresh and bring new ideas back to our team. Why do you feel it is important for nurses to serve as leaders and on Boards of Directors?  Boards are successful when they are rich with diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and skill sets.  I cannot think of a group of professionals who represent as much diversity as nurses when it comes not only to their social or cultural backgrounds, but also the rich diversity of their professional experiences. That diversity is what boards need during strategic planning, exploring opportunities, or confronting challenges.  Additionally, nursing is all about caring. What better way to care for others than to help inspire and lead organizations that improve well-being beyond the bedside. What do you think is the most significant barrier to nurses serving on boards?  I sense that most nurses do not realize that the opportunity exists (or organizations know of nurses who are interested).  Board development is done through relationships, so it is important for nurses to make it known what they are passionate about and willing to serve. (Nurses are no strangers to serving on committees, so the skills necessary to serve on boards are already there!).  Organizations such as NOBC are critical to facilitating those connections. Give an example of what nurse leadership looks during the COVID-19 crisis. I am fortunate to be at the University of Utah during this pandemic where there have been ample examples of leadership in action. Specifically, our nursing leadership has been hands on in implementing the frequent changes and adjustments to workflows, rather than just communicating them.  Our senior nurse leaders (CNO to department mangers) have been along side staff all hours of the day and night helping set up new workspaces, moving supplies, building screening tents and securing them when inclement weather hits.  There has also been an increased in the frequency and detail of communication about how the crisis is impacting the organization.  Leadership has been very transparent about everything from supply/staffing levels to the financial impact on the organization.  They have taken the ‘we are all in this together’ very literally.  

AMN Healthcare’s Mary Sturdy-Martin Elected Mayor of Fontanelle, Iowa
In her almost three-decade career in the nursing field, AMN Healthcare Clinical Program Director Mary Sturdy-Martin has developed an in-depth understanding of the needs and challenges faced by patients, clinicians and healthcare institutions across the country. Continue Reading

Boards: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and the American Psychiatric Nurses Association (APNA)
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Nurses are relevant. We are trained to think critically and problem solve while advocate. We are naturally creative and develop creative solutions. We love people. Continue Reading

Boards: Morongo Basin Healthcare District
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Nurses on Boards Coalition