Most new trustees come to a hospital board with a strong business background and a deep commitment to supporting the health of their communities. But they soon find that leading a hospital is unlike leading other businesses. Health care is a highly complex and regulated field, and the impact of strategic decisions is felt in very real, human terms.

The American Hospital Association offers support to trustees in many ways. Trustee magazine is the only journal serving the members of hospital boards. AHA's Center for Healthcare Governance offers state-of-the-art education, research, publications, services, tools and other resources to help boards achieve and maintain excellence. AHA informs and involves trustees through the Trustee Leadership Network, a forum for trustees who want to participate actively in the association's advocacy initiatives. Trustees also are represented in the AHA governance process through the Committee on Governance, regional policy boards, ad hoc steering committees and task forces, and on the AHA board to ensure that trustee needs and perspectives are considered.

One resource with which you may not be familiar is AHA's Health Research & Educational Trust. HRET seeks to advance ideas and practices beneficial to practitioners, institutions, consumers and society at large. It focuses on identifying and evaluating key strategic issues affecting innovative health care delivery systems, educating the field about the implications of changing policies and developing strategies for community health improvement.

One of HRET's six dedicated research areas is leadership and governance. It offers the latest management research to help support performance improvement. It also provides access to a wealth of educational resources on the latest health care issues, and surveys that benchmark current practices and emerging trends. You can learn more and access these resources at www.hret.org/leadership.

In the coming months, AHA will unveil additional resources created just for hospital trustees, including an in-boardroom education series on emerging topics in health care and a new catalog of trustee-specific resources.

Penny Brooke (Penny.Brooke@nurs.utah.edu) is COG chair and a trustee of Intermountain Health Care Central Urban Region in Salt Lake City.