The Trustee's Role

imageAs leaders of your health care organization and community, trustees play a special role in advocating on behalf of their hospital and community. They are often looked to as trusted sources of information and as industry regulations and health care transformation continues to grow, being a successful advocate will be a key factor  in their leadership and organization's success.

Some trustees will be more comfortable than others when it comes to advocacy for the organization. It is important for the hospital and governing board to have a plan for who, when, where and how to involve trustees. Board members tend to get involved in issues of great importance to the organization, such as Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement, funding for the uninsured and tort reform/liability insurance.

Being an Effective Health Advocate

Personal contact from those who are affected directly by governmental policies and regulations is the best advocacy. Trustees can be very effective in describing the hospital’s concerns. Few can better describe the plight of the underserved poor affected by inadequate Medicaid payments, the need to maintain the solvency of the Medicare trust fund or the repercussions of shortages of health professionals. As community leaders and business people, trustees have a high degree of credibility.

Special Attributes of Trustees

Trustees are a powerful resource to be used in promoting hospitals and building community support. A vast majority of hospital board members are not paid for their oversight of the hospital and are viewed as credible messengers by the public. The board must recognize and be committed to its responsibility to take an active role in building community support. Trustees should be knowledgeable about the hospital and aware of specific areas and issues which attract public attention. Among the ways in which trustees can contribute in their advocacy roles are the following:

  • Trustees’ spheres of influence include friends, neighbors, business associates, civic leaders and politicians;
  • Trustees have a broad community perspective. They serve both as the community’s link to the hospital and as the hospital’s link to the
    community;
  • Trustees’ contacts can be the basis for building coalitions on health policy issues and expanding the base of support for the hospital’s view on specific
    issues;
  • Trustees are familiar with the political process and are comfortable in this arena. Many trustees work on or contribute to elected officials’ political
    campaigns;
  • Some trustees have expertise in public speaking;
  • Many trustees and their families have lived in the same community for
    generations; and
  • Trustees, in their volunteer service to the hospital, have the ability to build and maintain trust.