By Diana Meeks, PhD, RN, CS, FNP, CNE, NE-BC
(Content courtesy of Chamberlain College of Nursing)
RNs are the largest segment of the nation’s healthcare workforce, according to the Institute of Medicine’s 2010 report “The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health,” but they often are underrepresented on the leadership organizations that shape it. For example, only 6% of hospital board members are nurses, according to a survey published in the Journal of Healthcare Management. Yet industry leaders agree that nurse representation and participation are vital to a governing board’s authority and knowledge regarding the patient experience, quality and safety. As we start a new year, now is an ideal time for nurse leaders to refocus their professional goals to alter this pattern, whether they work in hospitals or elsewhere in their communities.
Since nurses work on the front lines of healthcare, they are uniquely positioned as central coordinators of collaborative patient care, having a direct, influential role on patients, their families and healthcare delivery. Nurse leaders have the skills, experience and education to translate their knowledge and insights into action by advocating for patients on hospital boards and policymaking organizations that determine how to address the health needs of a community, coordinating care among multiple providers and reducing medical errors and increase patient satisfaction. The healthcare industry depends on nurse leaders who are empowered to provide vital insights and contributions to aid in its success.
Nurses interested in taking the next step in their careers to become healthcare leaders can pursue advanced degree program options to apply knowledge of organizational leadership to facilitate and achieve positive change in the transformation of healthcare. Healthcare leaders perceive nurses with advanced degrees as possessing a wider knowledge base of patient care, quality standards, business acumen and other skills that result in improved patient outcomes. Accordingly, some hospitals require nurses to have a master’s degree to move into specialty or leadership roles.
Online learning options like Chamberlain College of Nursing’s MSN degree program give nurses the flexibility to continue their education without taking a break from their careers. Chamberlain offers a variety of MSN specialty tracks to prepare nurses for specialty careers in nursing, informatics, nurse education or healthcare policy, which pairs interpersonal skills development with curriculum on the complex healthcare system, including staffing, budgets, organizational change and factors that influence healthcare.
Earning her MSN degree helped Chamberlain nursing student Lori Gutierrez, BSN, RN-C, DON-CLTC, take her career from staff nurse to a position on the Arizona State Board of Nursing. She now helps provide oversight to the state’s certified nursing assistants, LPNs, RNs and advanced practice RNs, including providing recommendations on disciplinary action. Lori also chairs the board’s scope of practice committee, where she helps draft advisory opinions that clarify regulations and helps give direction to both nurses and employers throughout Arizona.
Thanks to their advanced education, skills and access to direct patient care, nurses bring invaluable perspectives to the leadership table. Hospital boards and healthcare advocacy groups that have the insight from a nurse can paint a clearer picture into the patient experience and make more informed decisions regarding policy, patient safety or best practice improvements. The journey from bedside to boardroom can begin today for those extraordinary nurses who are empowered to transform healthcare.
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Diana Meeks, PhD, RN, CS, FNP, CNE, NE-BC, is a professor in the MSN degree program at Chamberlain College of Nursing.