While most boards focus mainly on finance and business, health care delivery, quality, and responsiveness to the public—areas in which the nature of their work gives nurses particular expertise—also are considered key (Center for Healthcare Governance, 2007). A 2007 survey found that 62 percent of boards included a quality committee (Governance Institute, 2007). A 2006 survey of hospital presidents and CEOs showed the impact of such committees. Those institutions with a quality committee were more likely to adopt various oversight practices; they also experienced lower mortality rates for six common medical conditions measured by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s (AHRQ’s) Inpatient Quality Indicators and the State Inpatient Databases (Jiang et al., 2008).
The growing attention of hospital boards to quality and safety issues reflects the increased visibility of these issues in recent years. Several states and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, for example, are increasing their oversight of specific preventable errors (“never events”), and new payment structures in health care reform may be based on patient outcomes and satisfaction (Hassmiller and Bolton, 2009; IOM, 2000; King, 2009; Wachter, 2009). Given their expertise in quality and safety improvement, nurses are more likely than many other board members to understand the issues involved and often can educate other members about these issues (Mastal et al., 2007). This is one area, then, in which nurse board members can have a significant impact. Recognizing this, the 2009 survey of community health systems mentioned above specifically recommended that community health system boards consider appointing expert nursing leaders as voting board members to strengthen clinical input in deliberations and decision-making processes (Prybil et al., 2009).
More CNOs need to prepare themselves and seek out opportunities to serve on the boards of health-related institutions. If decisions are taking place about patient care and a nurse is not at the decision-making table, important perspectives will be missed. CNOs should also promote leadership activities among their staff, encouraging them to secure important decision-making positions on committees and boards, both internal and external to the organization.
Nurse researchers must develop new models of quality care that are evidence based, patient centered, affordable, and accessible to diverse populations. Developing and imparting the science of nursing is also an important contribution to nurses’ ability to deliver high-quality, safe care. Additionally, nurses must serve as advocates and implementers for the program designs they develop. Academic–service partnerships that typically involve nursing schools and nearby, often low-income communities are a first step toward implementation. Given that a nursing school does not exist in every community, however, such partnerships cannot achieve change on the scale needed to transform the health care system. Nurse researchers must become active not only in studying important care deliv-