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Nurses Need a Long Drive to the Boardroom

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, April 15, 2013

From handling technicians to communicating with physicians and coordinating the entire care team, good nurses are trained to be effective communicators, team members, and collaborative problem solvers, all essential skills in an effective CEO, but nurses are often looked over for these positions.

Although physicians are actively saying they think they could do a better job than most hospital CEOs, physicians rarely take a business class or learn anything about organizational behavior, versus nurses whose training relies on managing relationships to do their jobs well.

Both groups, by training, lack strategic financial management experience, but physicians are still seen as the CEO candidates and continue to represent more seats in the hospital boardrooms than nurses.

"If you interview CNOs and ask if you have to keep the CMO happy, they would say yes; if you asked a CMO if they have to keep the CNO happy they would say 'no, the CNO has to keep me happy,' if they're being honest. I do think the emerging generations will change that. But the baby boomers have been pushing against a very hard wall in their careers," says Kritek.

"Doctors are upset because CNOs look too powerful. COOs and even CEOs are saying nursing is getting too powerful. What they mean by that is nurses are starting to influence the organization at the leadership level in a way that makes the others uncomfortable because nursing is often a big 800 pound gorilla in the room that they pretend doesn't exist. And nurse executives have to make a choice, do they continue to work in the organization to make a difference, or do they speak out on the issue. It's a very subtle thing," says Kritek.

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2 comments on "Nurses Need a Long Drive to the Boardroom"


Jason Uppal (4/21/2013 at 9:45 PM)
I am not a nurse and not married to one either ... i do agree .. here are my thoughts Silent Leaders of Change Twenty five years ago when I was asked to improve health and safety performance of a car manufacturing plant, the change leaders were not the CEO, or Plant Managers. The true leaders were the people on the shop floor. They were the unsung heroes to implement and drive real change. Not because somebody asked them, because change had positive impact in their work life and leadership freed them to realize change. Similarly, if we want to improve quality and safety of patient care in hospitals, we need to tap our silent leaders – Nurses and lets free them to do their job.

Phyllis Kritek (4/16/2013 at 2:39 PM)
Thank you for an excellent report on an important issue! It is encouraging to see Health Leaders Media addressing issues that are not only important to nurse leaders but to all who hope that health care organizations will seek the best possible leaders to grapple with the complexities of todays's health care world. If health care organizations are serious about hiring clinical leaders for CEO and COO positions, it is difficult to imagine any potential leadership pool is better equipped than experienced CNOs.