In just about every field, there are discrepancies between leadership positions and the population they represent; health care is no different. The American Hospital Association’s Institute for Diversity conducted a national survey that found that minorities made up 31 percent of the patient population, but only 17 percent of first and mid-level management positions. There’s even less representation in upper management roles, with 14 percent of hospital board members and 12 percent of executive leadership roles filled by minorities.
As the hospitals’ population get more diverse, so should its leadership. This doesn’t just mean racial diversity, but gender, experience, and cultural diversity as well. Hospitals that have a multitude of perspectives will serve their population better and make the hospital more successful.
In terms of diversity of experience, nurses can bring a useful perspective to executive leadership. Many hospital executives come from a business background and don’t have the kind of on the ground experience nurses can bring to the table. Medical staff generally prefer leadership that is familiar with their experience, that can relate to how big-picture decisions can effect day-to-day practices in hospitals. Additionally, nurses have more racial diversity compared to executive leadership, so they would bring that experience to the table as well.
However, there are a lot of barriers to nurses trying to obtain leadership positions. As a nursing student, nurses are much more focused on learning patient care than management techniques. Nurses don’t get much formal training in finance or business, so staying competitive might mean seeking a time-consuming and expensive degree on the side. There is also a possible stigma against nurses from executives, so much so that the American Nursing Association reports that RNs seeking executive work often leave that off their resume. As one nurse told them: "Well, I don't want to put RN after my name because some people might not think that I know as much about business, or that might be a detractor when I'm competing with others in the C-Suite, especially men in the C-Suite."
While perspectives are slowly shifting, along with diversity numbers in hospital leadership, nurses taking on larger leadership roles can help hospitals and their patients.