No matter what year you look at, nurses continue to be members of the most trusted profession of all. As recently reported by a respected national polling organization: “Nurses Continue to Rate Highest in Honesty, Ethics.”
In the article published on January 6, 2020, R.J. Reinhart writes, “For the 18th year in a row, Americans rate the honesty and ethics of nurses highest among a list of professions that Gallup asks U.S. adults to assess annually.”
So why the resistance by governing boards and CEO’s to the concept of inclusion of nurses in the decision-making regarding the proper and safe staffing at the hospitals?
Maybe, it has to do with gender – specifically, the patriarchal bias which dominates most corporate structures – regardless of whether an institution is for profit or not for profit.
The dominance of men, and men who are NOT nurses or healthcare professionals, in the composition of hospital board membership is an inescapable demographic.
In her doctoral thesis entitled: “The Voices of Nurses Who Serve: A Dissertation Examining Nurses on Governing Boards,” Lisa J. Sundean PhD, RN (an assistant professor of nursing in UMass Boston’s College of Nursing and Health Sciences), writes about the dearth of nurses on hospital and healthcare governing boards:
“Ninety-two percent of US registered nurses are females (Budden, Moulton, Harper, Brunell & Smiley, 2016). Compared with US physicians, registered nurses comprise 89% of the healthcare workforce (Budden et al., 2016; Kaiser Family Foundation, 2017). Females comprise 58% of the US labor workforce and 51% of the US population (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014). However, females occupy only 28% of US hospital board seats and nurses occupy only 5% of hospital board seats (AHA, 2014). The argument for nurses on boards as an issue of occupational and gender is clear.” – Sundean, Lisa J. PhD, “The Voices of Nurses Who Serve: A Dissertation Examining Nurses on Governing Boards” (2017). Doctoral Dissertations. 1523.
As healthcare, and particularly healthcare in hospitals, transforms with the technological and demographic changes in our nation and throughout the world, nurses represent the frontline of caregivers and advocates in coping with those changes.
They should also occupy a significant seat at the tables where the transformation is being developed.
Having nurses on the governing boards of hospitals is long overdue.
So also, is the idea of having patient safe staffing committees, comprised of a majority of in-house and direct-care nurses, being the guiding force in developing hospital staffing plans.
For the past nine years a group of nurses has asked New Mexico’s legislature to recognize the importance of direct-care nurses being involved in the development of staffing plans at the hospitals where they work.
But lobbyists largely representing the governing boards of New Mexico’s hospitals have wined, dined, and made significant campaign contributions resulting in powerful lawmakers thwarting reform by never letting the legislation get to a vote of the full membership of either branch of the legislature.
Despite this blatant distortion of representative governance, The Patient Safe Staffing Coalition in New Mexico continues to work on issues that impact healthy and safe environments for nurses and all front-line caregivers at hospitals throughout the state.
In an end run around the contaminated legislative process, nurses have called on Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham to trust them, not corporate lobbyists, and put nurses at the forefront of planning safe staffing at their hospitals.
The governor, nurses say, has the power to put much of the intent of their legislation into the department of health’s rules relative to the licensing and oversight of hospitals and their governing boards.
Maybe putting more nurses, especially direct-care nurses, on hospital governing boards would bring about safer and more effective care?
For more information regarding the idea of having nurses on governing boards of hospitals and health organizations, click here for a video interview of Dr. Sundean conducted in May of 2019, by Mabel Jong at the 16th Annual World Health Care Congress.