Community Matters - June 2024

Community Matters - June 2024

Healthcare professionals may still be those we most trust, but that trust “account” has taken a hit the last several years. We all know the reasons why. Healthcare leaders, you go first when it comes to repairing that all-important relationship with your community. Any action you take must begin with the end in mind: trusted, caring relationships. Our community members base trust on:

  • Integrity do we walk the talk of our values in and outside of work?
  • Reliabilitycan we be counted on as a partner?
  • Transparent communication does the community believe we will tell the truth?

With this in mind as the starting point, following are some examples of relationship in action shared by the best rural healthcare leaders:

  • “Got Your Back.” Support youth mental health and local schools by sponsoring this app for your community https://jacobsswag.org/app/ It’s a suicide prevention resource for teens offered in the way teens communicate.
  • Put in a “healing garden.” Host local gardeners to come in and develop it, or hire one. Teach kids about gardening. Incorporate your gardening into food and nutrition education events. Hold weddings there! Make it a destination of peacefulness that invites people in.
  • Say yes as much as you can. When community groups and organizations ask you to participate, donate, offer staff time to support them, you know you can’t do it all. But can you do more than you have? Say yes.
  • Share employees. Partner by employing positions that work for you and in the community. Athletic trainers, school nurses, mental health counselors in the schools, healthcare screenings in businesses. Offer up employees to help teach health related topics in the local schools.
  • Hire for ambassadorship skills. Support and train employees in making connections as part of their job description, as important as their technical skills.
  • Leader Service. Ask leaders to volunteer to mentor in the schools a certain number of hours, or to volunteer in face-to-face service of the poor: meals on wheels, prison ministry, homeless shelters. To be successful at this, hold intentional discussions with your leader teams. It must be understood why it matters and why it is not just a “nice-to-do” outside of their work, but that you expect it to be part of their work.
  • Create a club scrub type of program where teens (middle or high school) come to the hospital to tour departments and participate in experiential activities to learn about careers. Here’s a toolkit to get you started: https://worh.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/ClubScrub_0.pdf. This long-term recruitment strategy will pay off as a “grow your own” workforce model.
  • Buy a cow or a pig at the county fair from a local youth, cook it for the community and invite people in for a meal at one of your events (e.g., “MyChart” sign up event, open house, health fair, women’s night, etc.)
  • Coordinate community disaster drills. Become the convener for these kinds of shared events by participating regularly in local community organization networking groups that include social service agencies, the religious community (including clergy and parish nursing), schools, etc., so that everyone is prepared.
  • Make the hospital’s café a destination. Host “taste of” events for your community to highlight nutrition that is delicious.
  • Host walking events. Build a walking trail inside your building for the winter and outside (for the 15 minutes in Wisconsin) when the weather cooperates. The idea of getting people to come to you when they are not sick to have a positive experience shows that you care about their health not just their sickness.
  • Offer PTO bonuses for employees who volunteer in your community for selected causes.  
  • Build business partnerships. Offer “business breakfasts.” Meet with the leaders of the major employers at least once a year to get to know them and learn what their challenges are. Look for ways to engage local businesses in your gift shop offerings.  
  • Get involved in community economic development to help address the childcare, housing, and economic environment needs unique to your community. This work supports everyone, including the employees you want to attract and keep.


There is no shortage of creative ways to partner with your community. The relationships you invest in are with the people whose trust you cannot survive without.


Jo Anne Preston In Jo Anne's current role as Organizational and Workforce Development Senior Manager at the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative (RWHC) her aim is to offer to leaders straightforward tools and inspire the courage to use them.
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