A recent article in “Trustee Magazine,” suggests adding a nurse to a hospital board of trustees is an often overlooked position. With 3.6 million nurses in the United States, only 5 percent of hospital trustees are nurses. Northeastern Health System falls within that five percent with the addition of Nurse Carol Choate, who has served on the hospital board of trustees for 15 years.
“Nurses have a comprehensive understanding of patient care that helps drive decision making, whether it be about quality, finance or outcomes,” said VP of System Clinical Operations at NHS, Amy Williams. “As healthcare continues to evolve, it is important to have a collaborative approach, and nurses must have a seat at the table.”
The contributions nurses make as board members in hospitals are quantifiable. “A University Health System Consortium analysis found a correlation between the number of nurse trustees at hospitals and better performance in both quality and safety. Having a nurse on the board also creates a work environment that leads to higher retention rates for staff nurses.
“Staff level clinical representation is valuable,” said NHS VP of Patient Care, Donna Dallis. “Carol is able to look at it from the board, the hospital, the community and the staff’s perspective.”
The traditional board makeup has leaned heavily on trustees with financial backgrounds, such as bankers and business executives. But that focus on the balance sheet and developing new lines of business has needed adjustment over the past decade as payers such as Medicare and many large insurers have begun demanding quality-of-care information and improvement. Nurses, who spearhead many quality improvement initiatives, are also tied intrinsically to both staff and patient satisfaction.
“I believe Carol’s knowledge and experience influences the decisions that are made by the board,” said Williams. “She is an advocate for patient care and community health. As chair of our Board Quality Assurance committee, she can advocate for programs that contribute to the wellness of our patients and employees.”
Choate’s fifty years of nursing experience are an invaluable tool to the NHS board, as she has worked for many of the organizations the health system partners with. She has worked for W.W. Hastings Indian Hospital, Northeastern Health System, the Cherokee County Health Department, Northeastern State University where she taught nursing, and now as the Cherokee County Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust Healthy Living Program grant coordinator for the Cherokee County Health Services Council.
For Choate, making a difference in the health of her community continues to drive her nursing career.
“Being a nurse for fifty years, I have taken care of patients suffering from preventable diseases due to tobacco use and obesity. The health of every Oklahoman can be improved through preventing and reducing cancer and cardiovascular disease through the reduction of tobacco use, addressing physical inactivity, poor nutrition and obesity,” said Choate. “The only way you can change population health is through changing the environment through policy change. Those policies include Tobacco Free Environments, increased opportunity for physical activity and access to healthy foods.”
Choosing the right nurse trustee, rather than simply filling a spot on the board, is of vital importance.
“Overall Carol is just a great person, who is fun-loving and such a positive influence for others in the field of nursing,” said Williams. “Her service to this hospital has been invaluable and we look forward to working with her for many more years.”