Schwartz rounds could increase empathy for patients and colleagues, study shows

A study into the effectiveness of Schwartz Center Rounds on healthcare staff has revealed that the program could increase empathy for patients and improve teamwork and communication.

A study into the effectiveness of Schwartz Center Rounds on healthcare staff has revealed that the programme could increase empathy for patients and improve teamwork and communication.

Schwarz Center Rounds are open to all healthcare staff, from nurses and consultants
to receptionists. Picture: South West News Service

Implemented in more than 150 organisations since 2009, Schwartz Center Rounds offer a confidential forum in which multi-disciplinary healthcare staff meet to discuss the impact of their work, including its challenges.

Typically, the rounds involve a monthly lunchtime meeting, where staff can gather to talk about their practice and any associated emotions. The aim is not to problem-solve, but to bear witness to colleagues' experiences in a safe and trusted environment.

Last year, King's College London professor of nursing research Jill Maben led a study into Schwartz rounds, exploring how they worked and what the outcomes were for staff.

Range of challenges 

In total, nine organisations took part in Professor Maben's study, which included observations of 46 Schwartz rounds and 178 interviews.

She said the results showed that the rounds could lead to increased empathy for colleagues and patients, and improved teamwork and communication.

Speaking at the RCN International Nursing Research Conference in Oxford on Wednesday, Professor Maben said: 'Seeing and understanding the context of a patient's experience as well as staff experience in a round allows people to be less judgemental. There is quite a lot of evidence now to suggest healthcare staff face a lot of social, emotional and ethical challenges in their work, and Schwartz rounds are one way to address this.'

Side by side 

Professor Maben also shared some of the comments from participants in the Schwartz rounds. 'To hear doctors being honest about a difficult patient and explaining how they handled it, I'd never heard this before', one participant said. 'It was the honesty of it, without judgement, and I think that was the powerful thing.'

Another said: 'We've had the most senior manager in our locality on a panel with a receptionist and a nurse. Seeing them all sit side by side, saying similar things and clearly struggling with similar dilemmas, brings everybody down to the same human level, which is helpful.'

Professor Maben added: 'In a busy, hierarchical, outcome-related environment such as the NHS, where stoicism is valued and staff are exhorted to put patients first, Schwarz rounds put staff experience centre stage.'

Follow the RCN International Nursing Research Conference on Twitter here.

More information on Schwartz rounds from the Point of Care Foundation can be found here

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