Make a plan to vote: Supporting hospitalized patients

September 19, 2022  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Every two years, hospital staff encounter patients who face challenges in exercising their right to vote due to an unexpected hospitalization. 

Inability to travel to the polls to vote or missing the deadline to request an absentee ballot can be an additional source of distress and disappointment for voters hospitalized at Michigan Medicine during this key time.

In 2018, the Care Management Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee recognized these challenges and trained Care Management social workers in election processes to support providing psychoeducation to hospitalized patients during the 2018 midterm election regarding how to access an emergency absentee ballot while hospitalized.

This very small step was so well-received that in 2020, the Department of Care Management Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee was joined by medical students from the UMMS Gold Humanism Honor Society, the Office of Patient Experience and the U-M Ginsberg Center to expand the support of patient voting rights.

During the 2020 general election, Care Management social workers and medical students were trained in the resources needed to appropriately direct patients and families in accessing an emergency absentee ballot while hospitalized. For patients without social supports to assist them in this process, medical student volunteers traveled more than 879 miles to deliver emergency absentee ballot applications and completed ballots to patients’ local county clerk’s offices across the State of Michigan. 

Student volunteers traveled as far as 2+ hours away from Michigan Medicine to support patients in exercising their right to vote.

Some of the patients assisted in 2020 included:

  • A patient exercising their right to vote for the first time
  • A patient who had not missed an election in 50+ years
  • Patients with COVID-19
  • Patients welcoming new babies during the election

Student volunteers shared that many patients were brought to tears by their ability to exercise their right to vote despite being hospitalized.

In 2022, Michigan Medicine is pleased to continue this initiative to support the voting rights of hospitalized patients through the continued collaboration between the Department of Care Management, Office of Patient Experience, Gold Humanism Honor Society, Ginsberg Center and many individual staff and faculty that have shown continued interest and support of this program. 

More information and patient education fliers can be found here.