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The Seats at the Table Project

We need more nurses in decision-making roles. The views of nurses have great value in large-scale efforts to promote health. Nurses think, plan, and act to improve health with a unique perspective. Yet decision-makers normally overlook nurses when they put together decision-making bodies, both in the private sector (such as hospital boards and committees) and in the public sector (such as public health agencies and departments). Nurses must ask for seats at the table, so that their perspective is included in policy-making — and so the public can see the value of nursing.

Since hospitals exist mainly to provide nursing care, they should be run by nurses. (If patients didn't need the 24/7 care nurses provide, they would be in an outpatient center, or home.) Yet we know of no instance in which nurses are a majority on a hospital board. In fact, nurses rarely sit on boards or serve as CEOs. (Our analysis of the websites of the top 17 hospitals listed in U.S. News and World Report indicated that few nurses sit on hospital boards. Getting an accurate count was difficult, but we found no hospital with more than one nurse on its board, and most had zero.)

We fully endorse the Nurses on Boards Coalition, which has a goal of getting 10,000 nurses on corporate, health-related, and other boards by 2020. We do not wish to duplicate this impressive effort. But in addition to placing nurses on boards, we would like to see nurses be part of every decision-making body that affects health or health policy, including at institutions where nurses practice, in governments and universities, and in school and community settings, from traffic committees to animal control advisory boards. Wherever health can be affected, we would like to see nurses play leading roles.

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