Term Limits for Board Members

By James E. Orlikoff and Mary K Totten

Term limits on board service can help keep boards fresh and effective.

The current challenges of healthcare governance have given rise to a growing debate about the issue of term limits for hospital and health organization board members. Are term limits a restrictive practice that leads to the loss of badly needed board talent, or are they an essential way of keeping boards from becoming stale and ineffective?

First, two quick definitions: Term length is the number of years a board member serves before needing to be reappointed; term limit refers to the number of successive terms a member can serve before being required to leave the board. Practically every healthcare board has defined term lengths. Many boards have also adopted term limits, but their value in today’s environment is being called into question.

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