The work hospital board members do

It takes a special kind of person to volunteer to serve on the board of an American hospital these days. As we’ve noted here innumerable times, health care is in the midst of a top-to-bottom transformation. While we don’t know precisely how the dust will settle, we do know, without a doubt, that the momentum for transformation is too great for anyone, on either end of the political spectrum, to stop — whatever the fate of the Affordable Care Act.

Everything will be affected: the types of services needed as baby boomers age, treatments evolve, and individuals become more responsible for their own health care decisions; the roles of clinicians and other health care professionals; the promise and peril of new technologies; and how providers across the care continuum will be measured and compensated for the essential work they do.

All of which makes your work on the hospital board very, very challenging — and, as I’ve been heartened to hear in conversations with numerous trustees these past several years — extremely fascinating. I’ve been told time and again that being part of the process of re-creating the national health care system and reimagining how trustees’ own institutions best fit into that transformed system is energizing and fulfilling. The awareness that you are playing an active role in preserving what’s good in health care for your community and for the country as a whole while reconfiguring what can be better has got to nourish your intellect, your soul and your sense of citizenship.

To help inspire and guide you in the mission you have embraced, this issue of Trustee spotlights two individuals who have made improving health care their life's work. In the cover story beginning on Page 8, Eugene Woods describes his sometimes surprising path to becoming CEO of Carolinas HealthCare System and 2017 board chair of the American Hospital Association. He sorts out the priorities ahead for the field and strategies for achieving them, and he offers some moving anecdotes about his professional and personal life.

In a Q&A on Page 20, Maureen Swick, R.N., discusses the biggest issues that keep nurse leaders up at night and how she hopes to address them in her roles as the AHA’s chief nursing officer and CEO of the American Organization of Nurse Executives.

I know you’ll find their insights illuminating as you carry out your vital responsibilities as a hospital board member.