Community engagement takes many forms, from volunteers in hospital wards, to donors and fundraisers, to the advisors who contribute their leadership to committees and boards that help the hospital meet community needs. The MUHC-ISAI and HIF explored community engagement through activities in 2013 to arrive at the following key messages to boards and senior management; to hospital staff, physicians and patients; to the public and government; and to the community.
To Boards and Senior Management
- Leadership is vital to unleashing the potential of volunteerism of all kinds.
- The experience of patients is a vital contributor to efforts at improving the way care is delivered. Including patients at all levels of hospital decision-making is an important aspect of community engagement. At the MUHC, management is involved in patient/user committees and this is greatly appreciated.
- Hospital directors and boards can ensure that volunteer activities are structured in such a way that they complement and strengthen hospital initiatives and the work of staff.
- Consistent efforts to maintain community confidence in the institution through open and honest communication are essential, as are efforts to highlight the benefits of community contributions to staff.
- Clear statements of the MUHC’s priorities are needed by organizations wishing to partner in more formal ways to enhance and accelerate joint goal achievement.
- Conduits to gather the perceptions and advice of volunteers on ways of improving health services make use of their unique perspective.
To Hospital Staff, Physicians and Patients
- The initial relationship between care provider and patient is what sparks many long-term volunteer commitments. Nurses and physicians are uniquely placed to invite/direct patients (and family members) to opportunities that exist for involvement. Patients have important insights into the needs of fellow patients, staff and the institution.
- The need for volunteers is growing and with that come new challenges in recruitment and program development. Building strong partnerships between health professionals and volunteers provides an opportunity to maximize talents and expertise, while ensuring health professionals can focus on care delivery.
- Foundations, Auxiliaries and the Friends of the MUHC are essential ambassadors between the hospital and the community, strengthening relationships, building trust and supporting care improvements.
- Charitable donations (philanthropy) were responsible for the creation of many Montreal hospitals and remain vital to their operation and their ability to incorporate innovations.
- Partnership opportunities abound and governments must work with healthcare institutions to encourage and facilitate collaboration between the community and the public sector.
- With an aging population and rising healthcare costs, governments need to encourage greater community involvement in improving health services. Support for better self-management for people living with chronic illnesses is one important opportunity.
- Government should recognize that volunteering contributes to personal and societal health and well-being as well as improving the hospital experience. An active volunteer force strengthens the community.
To the Community
- Volunteers contributed the effort and resources that laid the foundations of our healthcare institutions.
- Industry partners play a significant role in supporting innovative practices in health service delivery.
- Along with Volunteer Departments and Foundations, Auxiliaries and the Friends serve as essential bridges between hospital and community and as essential contributors to the patient experience. They provide opportunities for former employees to maintain links with colleagues and the institution while putting their intimate knowledge of the hospital to good use. They also provide members of the community with opportunities to become involved in the life of the hospital. As the MUHC embarks on its most significant transformation yet, it is more important than ever to collaborate in strengthening community engagement.