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Caroline Shuldham: Schwartz rounds help ease stress, foster teamwork

Attending Schwartz rounds enables staff to share experiences with colleagues and discuss the challenges they face. Not only does this reduce emotional stress, it leads to improved teamwork and increased empathy and compassion, says Caroline Shuldham.

Attending Schwartz rounds enables staff to share experiences with colleagues and discuss the challenges they face. Not only does this reduce emotional stress, it leads to improved teamwork and increased empathy and compassion, says Caroline Shuldham

Schwartz_Round
A Schwartz round at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital. Picture: Southwest News Service

Findings of a new study on Schwartz rounds, published in October, show that healthcare staff who regularly share the emotional, social or ethical challenges they face in the workplace experience less psychological distress, improved teamwork, and increased empathy and compassion for patients and colleagues.

I was privileged to be part of the research team, which was led by Jill Maben during her time as professor of nursing research at King’s College London. With researchers from organisations including the University of Sheffield and the King’s Fund, we examined the impact of Schwartz rounds on clinical and non-clinical staff.

Rounds are monthly forums offering an opportunity for staff to share experiences with colleagues, and discuss the challenges they face in their work and the impact of them.

Challenging, demanding

I was intrigued by Schwartz rounds from the moment I read about them, and introduced them to the trust where I was nurse director in 2011.

Conscious that healthcare work is busy and demanding, and that caring for patients at some of the most challenging times in their lives can have an emotional impact on staff, I wanted to provide something to help maintain staff wellbeing.

Now the research has shown significant improvements in the wellbeing of staff who attended rounds regularly, with the proportion of those with psychological distress falling by half during the eight-month study period.

Empathy, tolerance

In contrast, there was little change in the psychological wellbeing of staff who did not attend rounds during this time.

Staff said attending the rounds led to greater understanding, empathy and tolerance towards colleagues and patients, and positive changes in practice.

But we also found that the way the rounds were implemented varied, with challenges including staff attendance and the workload and resources required for planning and running the rounds.


Caroline Shuldham is chair of the RCNi editorial advisory board. A former nursing director, she is an independent adviser on research, teaching and mentoring

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