From Bedside to Boardroom-Nursing Shared Governance

Robert G. Hess, Jr., PhD, RN



A brand-new nursing shortage is revitalizing shared governance. This innovative organizational model gives staff nurses control over their practice and can extend their influence into administrative areas previously controlled only by managers. But nursing shared governance is hard to define. Its structures and processes are different in every organization; and its implementation is like pinning Jell-O® to a wall. Is it appropriate for every situation? Is it worth the price? And can it really measure up to its glowing reputation? This article presents an overview of nursing shared governance, looking at themes and experiences from its rich 25-year tradition.

Purpose/Goal: To identify its essential elements, provide guidance for professionals who wish to embark on the journey, and describe the current status of shared governance as of 2008.


1. Define the concept of shared governance in nursing.
2. Describe the advantages and disadvantages of shared governance.
3. Delineate implementation issues associated with nursing shared governance.


Robert Hess, PhD, RN, is an educator, editor, author, and consultant. He is the executive vice president, Continuing Education Programming for Gannett Healthcare Group, the largest communications company for nurses in the world and publisher of Nursing Spectrum and NurseWeek. Dr. Hess is responsible for the development, marketing, and dissemination of continuing education for nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists and other allied health professionals through magazines, websites, webinars, podcasts, seminars and regional events, and study tours and cruises. His formal education includes an undergraduate degree in comparative religion from Temple University, a nursing diploma from Frankford Hospital in Philadelphia, a master's degree in nursing administration from Seton Hall University, and a doctorate in nursing from the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, where he studied organizational theory at the Wharton School. His research involves the development of the only current instruments that measure governance by professionals in health care organizations. In 2005, he created and founded the Forum for Shared Governance, an international clearinghouse for promoting and disseminating research about shared governance and other organizational innovations that empower nurses and other.

The planners and author of this CNE activity have disclosed no financial relationships with any commercial companies pertaining to this activity.

Contact Hours: 1.42

Expiration Date: 12/1/2012


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