Directors of nursing should broaden their focus beyond nursing issues if they are to push the quality drive at board meetings and avoid being stereotyped as the “bleeding heart” of the boardroom.
Nursing directors need to become competent in discussing financial, marketing and commercial issues as well as issues of quality and safety, so that when they do raise clinical issues at board meetings they are not “downgraded or marginalised”, according to a joint report, published last week by the King’s Fund and the Burdett Trust for Nursing.
This can be a dangerous position for directors of nursing to find themselves in
The report – based on board level observations at six English trusts – forms part of a wider King’s Fund investigation to better understand how NHS boards assure themselves about quality of clinical care.
Report co-author Pippa Gough, Health Foundation assistant director of improvement, said directors of nursing who only speak about nursing issues “do not command the attention of the board in the same way” as if they are able to articulate about broader corporate issues.
“If directors of nursing can address issues across the whole of the corporate governance base, when they talk about quality, people are more interested in the message because they assume it comes from a much more informed base,” she told Nursing Times.
The report also questions how far directors of nursing should act as advocates for nursing staff in board meetings. It warns that too much of this could “compromise their ability to provide assurances to the board” that nursing staff are delivering high quality patient care.
Report co-author Sue Machell, King’s Fund leadership associate, said: “This can be a dangerous position for directors of nursing to find themselves in, particularly where the nursing staff are not performing as well as they might be.”
“But once [directors of nursing] get to the board they have a responsibility across the whole of the corporate agenda. Their job is not to be a representative of nurses, but to present the facts,” she said.