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Why It’s Time To Add Nurses To Leadership Boards

by Marla Weston, Chair, Nurses on Boards Coalition

June 13, 2018

Value-based health care delivery and payment require access to affordable health care coverage to all Americans through a competitive marketplace that fosters choice, quality, and innovation. America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) is the largest advocacy organization in the health insurance industry and its members serve millions of American consumers. Together, they advocate for solutions that expand access to affordable, high quality health care coverage for all Americans.

Yet, while all employers, health insurance providers, physicians, nurses, and other health providers, and the federal government have been pursuing improved access, quality, cost, and innovation, the pace of progress has been inconsistent, and disparities persist. Diversifying leadership perspectives is a proven strategy for accelerating the scale, impact, and pace of complex transformative change.

Nurses are an underutilized resource in leadership roles in transforming the health care system, according to the Institute of Medicine (now National Academy of Medicine) report The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health (2010). The report identified that people often mistake nurses as functional doers rather than thoughtful strategists. For America’s health insurance providers, including nursing leadership at the board table can be a catalytic force in the move toward value-based health care access and payment.

Nurses not only diversify the experiences and knowledge of the board but also add deep expertise and understanding of the health care system. Nurses are grounded in the foundation of human-to-human health care, which is necessary for keeping insured populations well. Every health insurance provider is plagued by rising systems costs, and any board that has nurses in governance will test each decision with “How are patients being served?” Nurses are also adept in forming mutually beneficial relationships with community-facing and public health organizations, which is fundamental to addressing social determinants of health.

Many health insurance providers have already benefitted by placing nurses on their boards. An excellent resource for identifying a nurse with the qualities and competencies necessary to serve on boards is the Nurses on Boards Coalition. The Coalition has a database of over 10,000 nurse leaders from across the country who either have served or are interested in serving on a board. Nurses with the necessary qualifications and governance expertise can be found in  the database at nursesonboardscoalition.org.

Health insurance providers serve as good stewards of patients and employers to ensure the delivery of high-quality and cost-accessible care. Nurses’ expertise coupled with their repeated ranking as the most honest and ethical of professionals (Gallup, 2017) can be a valuable asset in achieving this responsibility. As health insurance providers address the complexity of the health care industry transformation, nurses may be the ideal collaborative leaders to invite to your board table.