The Reason I Serve: Susan Taft, RN, BSN, MSN, PhD

The Reason I Serve: Susan Taft, RN, BSN, MSN, PhD

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!

January 22, 2021

Nurses on Boards Coalition