Schwartz rounds cut rate of staff emotional distress by half – study

Regular attendance of structured discussions helps colleagues manage emotional burden.

Regular attendance of structured discussions helps colleagues manage emotional burden

Picture: Southwest News Service

Sharing the emotional and ethical challenges faced on shift significantly reduces individuals' psychological distress as well as improving teamwork and empathy, a nurse-led study suggests.

Research into the effects of Schwartz Center Rounds – known as Schwartz rounds – on clinical and non-clinical staff is the first in-depth study of its kind in the UK.

Discussion forum

Schwartz rounds are regular forums offering healthcare staff the chance to share experiences with colleagues, and discuss challenges they face.

Typically, the Schwartz round takes place once a month and lasts an hour. It opens with a small panel of colleagues reflecting on different accounts of the same case, or exploring themes such as ‘when things go wrong’ or ‘a patient I’ll never forget’. The remainder of the hour is an open discussion led by trained staff.

The study group used a questionnaire to examine the psychological well-being over an eight-month period of 500 staff.

Improved well-being

They found the well-being of staff who attended Schwartz rounds regularly improved, with the proportion of those with psychological distress halving over the eight months from 25% to 12%. There was little change among staff who did not attend over this period. 

Participants noted that attendance led to greater understanding, empathy and tolerance in relation to colleagues and patients, and positive changes in practice.

Schwartz rounds have become more common in the UK since the 2013 publication of the Francis report into failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, which highlighted their potential benefits. An estimated 160 NHS organisations now use Schwartz rounds.

Lack of resources

However, the researchers say implementation is patchy and barriers to attendance included workload and pressures on resources required for planning and running Schwartz rounds.

University of Surrey healthcare organisation, workforce and quality research professor Jill Maben, who led the study team, said: ‘The challenge is for organisations to continue to invest in Schwartz rounds in resource-constrained environments.’

The team included researchers from Kings College London, the University of Sheffield and The King’s Fund. RCNi editorial advisory board chair Caroline Shuldham was also involved.

Further information

A Longitudinal National Evaluation of Schwartz Centre Rounds®: an intervention to enhance compassion in relationships between staff and patients through providing support for staff and promoting their wellbeing

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