Nurses on Boards Provide a Unique Perspective

From Touch Point Online Magazine, Spring 2021 – Vol. V, Issue 1
Headshots of Kimberly Cleveland and Jasmine Bonder
Nurses should be everywhere decisions are being made, advocates Kimberly Cleveland, JD, MSN, RN, C-MBC, Kent State University College of Nursing lecturer, who currently serves as the Chair-Elect on the Nurses on Boards Coalition (NOBC) Board of Directors. Cleveland has had the opportunity to sit on hospital and long-term acute care boards, but it was her role as a board member for The American Association of Nurse Attorney (TAANA) where she was asked by TAANA to represent their organization at NOBC when they became a member organization in 2017.

“Nurses are instrumental in helping to bring about positive changes in healthcare and their local communities. That includes good communication, the ability to listen and engage with various stakeholders, understand finances and economics, and execute critical thinking,” explains Cleveland. “Nurses bring a different perspective than someone who sees only the finances or the science of how a disease develops because they are looking at the whole person within their environment.”

NOBC first convened in 2014 as a direct result of the Institute of Medicine’s The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health report, which included recommendations to increase the number of nurse leaders in pivotal decision-making roles on all types of boards and commissions.

“Our founder’s key strategy was to have 10,000 board seats filled by nurses in 2020, which was achieved on January 19, 2021. There are 10,126 board seats filled by nurses as registered in the NOBC database, with over 1000 positions reported in the last 90 days. Now that this historic milestone has been achieved, we will measure the impact of nurses on boards and continue to raise a broader awareness that every board would benefit from including the nursing perspective,” exclaimed Laurie Benson, BSN, Executive Director for NOBC. “We want to express appreciation to Kent State University leadership for their commitment and support as a NOBC Strategic Partner, supporting our mission and work. NOBC would not be where we are today without your support.”  

Cleveland regularly shares with her students that every relationship matters because it allows people to see how nurses think and learn what is important to them, which can lead to being tapped for a board seat. She continued to say that people perceive nurses as the individuals in the hospital caring for patients day in and day out. They don’t always connect how a nurse could impact their board because they do not necessarily see the critical thinking behind how that compassion gets delivered.

“It's important to cultivate good relationships from the time you're in your clinical all the way through your career,” said Cleveland. “Not only in the hospital, but also in your community, your place of worship, or any place where you find yourself living life. Finding mentors who can help you make big decisions is an important part of becoming a leader.”

One student who heeded Cleveland’s advice was Jasmine Bonder, MSN '19, RN, adjunct faculty for the College of Nursing. Bonder currently sits on the Kent State University Board of Trustees as the graduate students’ representative. She was encouraged to consider interviewing for the seat after a heart-to-heart conversation with now-retired College of Nursing Dean Barbara Broome and Cleveland.

“They told me I would be a good candidate for the board,” remembers Bonder, who didn’t believe this was the right fit for her at the time. “Kim helped me see that as nurses we have to advocate from every avenue, including sitting in high-stakes environments discussing the concerns we have from our professional outlook. Advocacy is not just in the hospital, but in the community discussing real-life problems and helping to realize solutions.” 

Bonder’s hesitancy to fill a board seat is not uncommon according to Benson. “One of the most significant obstacles nurses face when it comes to filling a board seat is believing they have something to contribute. Therefore, they don't raise their hand and say how about me,” remarked Benson. “It's fine to be humble but we need to be bold in taking a seat at the table. NOBC believes all nurses are leaders, and there's a place for every nurse to serve on a board that aligns with their skills, experience, qualifications, and their passion.”

Although she is not a voting member of the board, Bonder is pleased that she has had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Kent State University graduate students concerning issues that may or may not be bettering the students’ quality of education.

“My time on the Kent State Board of Trustees has been an invaluable experience and this opportunity has shown me that my opinions and knowledge are valuable. I have brought everything I have learned and embody as a nurse to this board seat,” declared Bonder. “The board has taught me the operations of an institution and how important it is not to be closed-minded. Barriers, limitations, and policies are in place to protect the community, students, staff members, and to ensure safety and quality amongst every situation. As a board member I have had to learn to see all the different caveats of an issue that could arise, and that exercise has made me really realize how open-mindedness is an asset to becoming a good leader.”

Bonder’s term will end this summer, but she hopes other nursing students will desire the opportunity to serve on the board in her place. “I want to be an advocate for nursing students who also want to be a leader in the community,” she said. “The Kent State Board of Trustee members have really taken me under their wing by sharing opportunities with me they believe I am suited for and have shared their struggles with me so I can grow from their experiences. Their mentorship has given me the confidence to one day be on a board as an official voting member. I am so thankful to Kim and Dean Broome for their support and encouragement as I have contributed to the University’s missions and values. I want to pass on everything they have taught me.”

Benson encourages nurses around the country to see themselves as nurse leaders. “Success does not happen in neutral, so don't overthink it. If you want to contribute in the boardroom, talk to colleagues or others who serve on boards. Don't underestimate the value you would bring to the table.”

Cleveland hopes to inspire all nurses to visit and register their interest in board work. "Nurses have the opportunity to gain insight about board openings at local levels through work with professional organizations, business organizations, and at NOBC," said Cleveland. "The website also provides many resources for nurses who are interested in board work and organizations thinking a nurse may be the right fit for their board." 

POSTED: Monday, March 15, 2021 - 5:05pm
UPDATED: Monday, April 5, 2021 - 4:00pm
Mariah Gibbons