Kerry Gowland, OD Practitioner and Chair of the Schwartz Steering Group explains why Schwartz Rounds are even more important in times of challenge and difficulty.

When we’re very busy operationally, as we are currently, it’s very easy to push the things which feel like ‘add-ons’ to the side. Schwartz Rounds are seen by many as a ‘nice to have’ rather than something which can be instrumental in how our staff copes on a day-to-day basis.  I’m not oblivious to the very real challenges of keeping our patient-facing services running when we have so many challenges, but I do think that ensuring that our people have a forum to talk about the impact of working within healthcare is vital, and helps us all to see that we’re not alone and that no matter our role within the organization there is value in sharing our feelings, worries, and doubts and supporting each other.

Schwartz Rounds were created by Ken Schwartz, who was a lawyer in the USA.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer, and whilst he received excellent clinical care, it was the care that was delivered with compassion and humanity which had the most impact upon him.

“I have learned that medicine is not merely about performing tests or surgeries, or administering drugs… For as skilled and knowledgeable as my caregivers are, what matters most is that they have empathized with me in a way that gives me hope and makes me feel like a human being, not just an illness.”

Schwartz Rounds aim to support those who work in healthcare – any role, any band, clinical and non-clinical – to examine and unpack the challenges of working within healthcare, in order to provide the emotional space needed to treat patients and colleagues with care, compassion and empathy.

At Gateshead, we launched Schwartz Rounds online in 2021 as a way to support our staff through the challenges of working through a global pandemic.  The Rounds run monthly and are currently still held online to enable as many people as possible to attend, although our aim is to run in-person Rounds in the future.

During Schwartz Rounds 2 or 3 storytellers will tell their story related to that month’s topic. Some of our recent topics have included ‘The day I made a difference’; ‘In at the deep end’; ‘A patient (or colleague) I’ll never forget’.  “ Schwartz facilitators will support the storytellers, and will then open up the discussion to the wider group, thinking about what has resonated with them, and sometimes sharing their own experiences.

The feedback from people who attend our Schwartz Rounds is overwhelmingly positive:

  • It was a reassuring reminder of the commonalities of our human experiences and emotions.
  • I feel very moved by all three speakers in today’s round. All very different experiences were shared but all three connected that we are all human after all.
  • The session allowed me during a time when things are so busy, to connect back to why we are here and the human touches we can all make to make a difference to patients and colleagues.
  • I feel that the Schwartz round today was well facilitated. It felt like a safe space to listen and to be heard. I would recommend it to others.
  • A very enlightening and emotional experience. It has had a very positive effect on me.

Please come along to one of our Schwartz Rounds over the coming weeks and months. If you’re curious and/or nervous, come along and simply observe – there is never any pressure for everyone to contribute to the discussion (although for an online Round, we do ask people to leave their camera’s on.)

If you’re interested in being a storyteller, let us know here.