A recent article in "Trustee Magazine" suggests adding a nurse to a hospital board of trustees is an often overlooked endeavor.
With 3.6 million nurses in the U.S., only 5 percent of hospital trustees are nurses. Northeastern Health System falls within that 5 percent with Carol Choate, who has served on the board for 15 years.
"Nurses have a comprehensive understanding of patient care that helps drive decision-making, whether it be about quality, finance or outcomes," said Amy Williams, vice president of System Clinical Operations. "As health care continues to evolve, it is important to have a collaborative approach, and nurses must have a seat at the table."
The contributions nurses make are quantifiable. A University Health System Consortium analysis found a correlation between the number of nurse trustees at hospitals and better performance in both quality and safety. Having a nurse on the board also creates a work environment that leads to higher retention rates for staff nurses.
"Staff level clinical representation is valuable," said Donna Dallis, NHS vice president of Patient Care. "Carol is able to look at it from the board, the hospital, the community and the staff perspective."
The traditional board makeup has leaned heavily on trustees with financial backgrounds, such as bankers and business executives. But that focus on the balance sheet and developing new lines of business has needed adjustment over the past decade, as payers such as Medicare and many large insurers have begun demanding quality-of-care information and improvement. Nurses are also tied intrinsically to both staff and patient satisfaction.
"I believe Carol's knowledge and experience influences the decisions that are made by the board," said Williams. "She is an advocate for patient care and community health. As chair of our Board Quality Assurance committee, she can advocate for programs that contribute to the wellness of our patients and employees."
Choate's 50 years of nursing experience are an invaluable tool to the NHS board, as she has worked for many of the organizations the health system partners with. She has worked for W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital, NHS, the Cherokee County Health Department, Northeastern State University as a nursing instructor, and now as the Cherokee County Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Healthy Living Program grant coordinator for the Cherokee County Health Services Council.
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