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Nurses: Consider Raising Your Leadership Voice

Our current healthcare system is not sustainable. As today’s clinical environment becomes more complex, there are more challenges for everyone involved in the delivery of care. New ideas, approaches, and systems are essential. Healthcare professionals from all disciplines are needed to serve in expanded leadership roles if we are to successfully transform the future of the industry. For nurses in particular, there has never been a more important time to accelerate and elevate the role they play in improving our country’s healthcare system. Nurses can contribute in new ways in leadership positions in health systems, medical centers, and in the boardroom to ensure that the nursing perspective is heard and acted upon. Research has shown that nurse leaders can have an extraordinary impact in evolving the future models of healthcare to improve outcomes and quality of life. In the landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health”1 one of the four key messages states that nurses should be full partners with physicians and other healthcare professionals in redesigning healthcare in the United States.  This directive calls for nurses to exercise their individual and collaborative leadership voices. Advancing significant and sustainable change in healthcare is both a privilege and a responsibility, and there are opportunities for leadership in every nursing role.  Have you found yourself thinking that there must be a better way of doing things? Do you act on these instincts by seeking opportunities to lead change? It may sound surprising, but most ideas that are halted do not face resistance due to lack of support or resources, but due to lack of confidence, fear of failure, or a perceived lack of resources. 


Several key characteristics of leading successfully amid complexity include extending trust, empowering and encouraging others, innovating, and connecting for impact. Many of these skills come through education and experience and/or innately for nurses.  In fact, nursing is consistently rated the “most trusted” profession.2  This correlates to fertile ground for nurses to empower others, collaborate, and try new approaches in healthcare delivery in communities across our nation. Wound care nurses play a vital role in the healing process in assessing, treating, and creating care plans for patients living with complex wounds, ostomies, and related conditions. The skills and compassion demonstrated every day by these professionals translates well into significant and expanded leadership roles. The Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC) was launched in November 2014 as a direct response to the IOM report, which calls for nurses to play a more pivotal decision-making role on boards and commissions. The effort was initially supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the AARP as part of a collaborative effort to implement the recommendations of the IOM report through the Future of Nursing: Campaign for Action.3 NOBC represents national nursing and other organizations working to build healthier communities in the U.S. by increasing the presence of nurses on corporate, health-related, and other boards, panels, and commissions. NOBC’s mission is to improve health in communities across the nation through the service of nurses on such boards. A key strategy is to ensure that 10,000 nurses serve on boards by 2020. All boards can benefit from the nursing perspective. The nursing profession has evolved to include a diverse group of professionals who are dedicated to serving patients, families, and communities, and is ideally suited to bring unique perspectives to the boardroom. Nurses possess a range of skills, including strategic planning, critical thinking, communications, quality and process improvement, communications, human resources, finance, and complex problem-solving. Accustomed to working in teams, nurses fit seamlessly into the boardroom environment with an understanding of challenges, opportunities, and implications of decisions on many levels. Wound care nurses should be asking themselves if they are interested in changing healthcare legislation, and/or serving on a hospital, public/private company, government commission, or foundation/nonprofit board. The first step for those who are interested is to express that interest, including registering in the NOBC database. When considering a board, be sure to select one that aligns with your passion for the mission of the organization. Don’t wait for an opportunity; take the initiative to contact an organization whose mission you are passionate about and ask to be kept in mind for a board seat. Many organizations are looking for diverse candidates and will likely appreciate any interested individuals (and strongly consider them as candidates). 


A noteworthy reference guide, Nurse on Board: Planning Your Path to the Boardroom,  by the late Connie Curran, RN, a pioneer and role model in advancing nurse leaders to the boardroom, is suggested reading.4 Connie’s goal was to articulate a clear path for nurses to become board members, and this how-to book offers practical advice and inspiring examples. We all make choices each day to act (or pass on acting) on leadership opportunities. I encourage you to release your own personal leadership voice in new ways that are meaningful to you. Decide where you want to have an impact and make a commitment to do so. Write down your goals, create an action plan, and set a timetable.  Share your goals with others and enlist their support. Consider who you might collaborate with to advance your shared goals. Lastly, make sure you celebrate your progress and success along the way! Whichever path you choose, I am confident that, individually and collectively, the nursing profession will play a significant and impactful role in redefining healthcare and improving health in communities across the nation. In doing so, we honor the legacy of the profession and provide efficient, cost-effective, sustainable care to best serve our patients with improved outcomes and quality of life — and improved health for all. I honor and recognize each of you for your expertise and leadership commitment for the benefit of all those you serve. 

Laurie Benson serves as executive director of the NOBC, a 501(c) (3) public charity that represents national nursing and other organizations that are working to build healthier communities in America by increasing nurses’ presence on corporate, health-related, and other boards, panels, and commissions. She is a nurse, entrepreneur, and has served on multiple private company and nonprofit boards. She also contributed to the book Nurse on Board: Planning Your Path to the Boardroom. She may be reached at  


1. IOM. The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health. Washington, DC: National Academies Press (US); 2011.
2. Brenan M. Nurses keep healthy lead as most honest, ethical profession. Gallup.®  2017. Accessed online:
3. Campaign for Action. Accessed online:
4. Curran C. Nurse on Board: Planning Your Path to the Boardroom. Indianapolis, IN: Sigma; 2016.

Laurie Benson, BSN
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