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NYAM forum examines need and process of preparing nurses for new roles

Monday June 9, 2014
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The Nursing Special Interest Group of The New York Academy of Medicine recently hosted a forum for nurse executives interested in bringing their knowledge and expertise to nonprofit, government and private organizations through board appointments.

The all-day workshop, held at the academy’s offices on April 3, provided information and insight into what board membership entails and why it is important for nurses to have a seat at the table.

The program included keynote presenter Diana Mason, RN, PhD, FAAN, president of the American Academy of Nursing and Rudin professor of nursing at Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing, and speaker Connie Curran, RN, EdD, FAAN, CEO of Best on Board and editor emerita, Nursing Economic$: The Journal for Healthcare Leaders. They discussed the need for more nurses to move into board roles and reviewed the essentials of board governance.

According to Mason, AAN has a keen interest in keeping track of how many RNs across the country have secured board appointments or are actively seeking to do so.

“We need to build an infrastructure around nurse appointments,” she said. “To do that, we need a database of nurses who want to sit on boards and those who already do, and we’re looking for an organization or school to house it.”

Mason is a member of New York State’s regional nursing action coalition to advance the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action collaboration of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the AARP Foundation. She said action coalitions from other states can provide the means of sharing this information.

Nurses in New Jersey have already started the ball rolling. “New Jersey looked at low-hanging fruit and went that route, going for state government appointments first,” Mason said. “That’s where [New York] should start as well.”

Curran has served on many private company and hospital boards over the past 30 years. Her company, Best on Board, specializes in educating and certifying those who are interested in trusteeship. She discussed how to prepare a resume, salary expectations and succession planning once a nurse becomes a board member.
The workshops included a breakout session in which participants chose one of three types of boards — non-profit, private/corporate and government — and sat with others to discuss strategies.

Some 30 nurse executives from both academia and service attended the workshop, most of whom were doctoral students, according to program co-chairwoman Donna Nickitas, RN, PhD, NEA-BC, FNAP, CNE, FAAN, professor at Hunter-Bellevue and executive officer, nursing PhD program, CUNY Graduate Center.

The idea for the workshop came after Nickitas, who is also editor of Nursing Economic$, published a series of articles on board governance written for the journal by Curran. Nickitas, along with program co-chairwoman Suellyn Ellerbe, RN, MN, NEA-BC, president and CEO of Suellyn Ellerbe and Associates, and Connie Vance, RN, EdD, FAAN, NYAM nursing leadership SIG chair and professor of nursing at the College of New Rochelle, forged a task force committee. The group plans to host other forums as well.

“Board membership is about raising nursing’s voice,” Nickitas said. “The next steps are to possibly develop a program that includes other disciplines, such as a finance workshop for non-finance professionals.”

The group currently has a membership of about 100 RNs who meet twice a year, Vance said.

“The SIG agreed that we should provide leadership in promoting some of the key findings and recommendations of the Future of Nursing initiative,” she said. “One of the ways to do this is to motivate and prepare nurses for governance roles. It’s important to have nursing’s unique values and perspectives influence healthcare in this country.”

Tracey Boyd is a regional reporter.

To comment, email editorNY@nurse.com.
Tips for board membership

Don’t be afraid
According to Connie Curran, RN, some clinicians are reluctant to participate on boards. “They don’t want to be on boards because they think it’s managing,” she said. “Being on a board isn’t managing, it’s leading.”

Go beyond expectations
Curran said 52% of boards are looking for women to participate. Visit websites like 2020 Women on Boards (www.2020wob.com), a national campaign dedicated to increasing the number of women on corporate boards to 20% by 2020.

Get your foot in the door:
Do this by taking on an ad hoc membership or joining a sub-committee first. “Sub-committees are a nice way to sample the board and figure out where you want to be,” Curran said. “Nurses, they typically think they want to be on quality, but I started out by asking to be on the finance committee. I like to know where the money comes from and where it goes.”

Keep time in mind
Consider how much time you have to spend. According to Curran, corporate boards typically meet for about four to six hours per month. Not-for-profits may meet longer.

Cover all bases
Include strategy training, succession planning and recruiting on your resume, along with creating a one-page bio. “People are looking for diversity on their boards, so if you’re considered a minority, be sure to include your picture,” Curran said.

Start small
If you are interested in joining a private/corporate board, seek out venture capitalists before going after huge companies. These are smaller, start-up companies that are wholly owned sole proprietorships. “There are lots of start-ups as a result of the new healthcare law,” Curran said. “A for-profit but not public company is a good stepping stone between non profit and corporate.”

Find the right fit
Sign up with a recruiting firm that performs board searches to match you with an organization. Be prepared to go through an extensive background search if you’re seeking membership on a corporate board.

More than a nurse
Rebrand yourself so that you see yourself as a board member and not just a nurse. Reintroduce yourself to your network in that manner. “Eighteen percent of the gross domestic product is spent on healthcare, so think of being on pharmaceutical or other healthcare-related boards,” Curran said.

Finance counts
Take courses on finance that are geared toward non-finance professionals to understand the language typically used. “Harvard Business School offers free modules on finance online,” Curran said.

Be cautious
Regardless of what kind of board, you are on, make sure that you have professional liability insurance in the event of lawsuit.

Source: Connie Curran, RN