The Importance of Board Member Relationships

By Mary Totten

Throughout my years of serving on boards, I typically have done so as an outside trustee, someone who brings knowledge about health care issues in general and about governance in particular, to the board table. Boards composed primarily of community members, as hospital boards traditionally have been, often incorporate outside trustees within their membership to bring a fresh, external perspective into board discussions. Over the years, incorporating an outside trustee into the board mix has come to be regarded as a good governance practice.

Like every board member, the job of an outside trustee is to provide strategic input and direction and to review performance, understand where problems may lie, confirm the hospital is taking steps to address them and that those steps are working to ensure the organization fulfills its duty to provide quality, safe care to the patients and communities it serves. At times this means raising issues and asking questions that other board members, who often have deep, longstanding relationships with their board peers and others in the community, might be hesitant to ask.

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