Help protect the health, welfare, and safety of the public.
- Serving on your board of nursing is challenging and rewarding.
- Success requires learning and understanding the many facets of board service.
- Serving on your board of nursing allows you to make a meaningful contribution to the profession.
By Barbara B. Blozen, EdD, MA, RN-BC, CNL
When I ask my students, “What’s the role of the board of nursing?” many think it serves to protect nurses. The truth, though, is that a state’s board of nursing (BON) is charged with protecting the health, welfare, and safety of the public.
Board service is an important part of participation in the nursing community and a great way for emerging nurse leaders to get involved. The work demands time and attention to the BON’s mission, but the result is fulfilling and rewarding.
The BONs in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the four U.S. territories are members of the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), a nonprofit organization. NCSBN is the vehicle through which state boards act and provide regulatory excellence for the public. Membership to NCSBN is available only to a state or territorial BON empowered to license and regulate nursing practice. The NCSBN’s policy-making body, the delegate assembly, has final membership approval.
As state government agencies, BONs are responsible for regulating nursing practice. Each state determines the administrative responsibilities and oversight of its individual BON. Depending on the state, the BON reports to the governor, a state agency (such as consumer affairs or public safety), or both the governor and a state agency. In some cases, the board may report to another state official or organization.
A board’s composition, decision-making powers, and authority vary by state. Membership typically includes a mix of registered nurses, licensed practical and vocational nurses, advanced practice registered nurses, and consumers. Members are appointed to their position.
In most states, BON authority includes overseeing and regulating the nursing profession and examining applicants for nursing licenses. In addition, most boards have the legal authority to operate a nursing program in the state, prescribe standards, set faculty requirements and curricula for schools, and perform site visits. In many states, the board determines training requirements for unlicensed assistive personnel and can impose legal sanctions or close a program. (See BON mission.)
How to join your BON
Before joining your state’s BON, assess your time. Members meet monthly or more often when needed to oversee board activities and take disciplinary action on nurse licenses. You must be able to commit time to board service. Stalter and Arms describe six competencies for BON service, including a professional commitment and an appreciation for the ethical and legal processes. (See 6 competencies of board service.)
6 competencies of board service
Requirements for membership and application methods vary by state and are delineated by state nurse practice acts. For example, in some states you submit your curriculum vitae through the governor’s website. To learn about the specific requirements for your state, visit your local BON site. Or you can go to the NCSBN website (ncsbn.org), where you can find a link to your state’s site.
Make an impact
Serving on a state BON gives you the opportunity to protect the health and welfare of the citizens of your state. It’s a great way to contribute to the profession, build leadership skills, and give back to your community.
Barbara B. Blozen is an associate professor of nursing at New Jersey City University in Jersey City.
National Council of State Boards of Nursing. About U.S. boards of nursing.
Stalter AM, Arms D. Serving on organizational boards: What nurses need to know. OJIN: The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. 2016;21(2):8.