Regularly sharing experiences improves wellbeing of healthcare staff

Healthcare staff who regularly share the emotional, social or ethical challenges they face at work experience less anxiety and depression, improved teamwork and increased empathy for patients and colleagues, a study has found.

The study, which was commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research, examined the impact of Schwartz Rounds on clinical and non-clinical staff in the UK. Schwartz Rounds are structured monthly forums that allow a multidisciplinary group of staff to share their experiences with colleagues.

The researchers analysed the psychological wellbeing of 500 staff members who attended the Rounds regularly, irregularly or not at all over an eight-month period using the GHQ-12 questionnaire.

They found that in those who attended the Rounds regularly the proportion with psychological distress fell from 25% to 12% during the period of the study. This compared with a drop from 37% to 34% among non-attenders over the same period.

'Significant benefits'

Lead researcher Jill Maben, professor of nursing at the University of Surrey and formerly of King’s College London, said: 'Delivering care to patients at some of the most challenging times in their lives has an emotional impact on staff, which undoubtedly impacts on their own wellbeing and on their work.

‘Our study is the first in the UK to demonstrate that those who regularly attend Rounds see significant benefits; their symptoms of anxiety and depression are reduced, they are better able to cope with the issues they face and have more empathy towards patients and colleagues, which undeniably has a positive impact on those in their care.’

Schwartz Rounds were developed in the US by the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare. They focus on the human dimension of medicine and are aimed at providing a structured forum for staff to discuss issues that affect them at work.

They were first introduced in the UK in 2009 by the Point of Care Foundation and now run in over 150 healthcare organisations across the country.

Schwartz Rounds in primary care

GP Dr Rini Paul has set up a community-based Schwartz Round in Islington, north London, to support staff health and wellbeing across primary, secondary and social care. The Rounds are funded by Islington Community Education Provider Network and between 20 and 50 people regularly attend the sessions.

‘The overall purpose is to improve staff health and wellbeing by focussing and reflecting on the emotional day-to-day work we do,’ Dr Rini said.

‘We felt having Schwartz Rounds specific to the community environment would be crucial for community staff as acute rounds are quite different and sometimes more medically led. So we have had community-specific Rounds such as "Behind Closed Doors, what happens on home visits?" and one about the link between primary and secondary care.’

She said quantitative data about the Islington scheme suggest a potential positive impact on patient care because the Rounds raise insight and increase knowledge about how others care for patients.

‘Qualitative data suggests it is a real leveller, hierarchies are put aside, and people can understand each other's perspectives,’ Dr Rini added. ‘Anecdotally nowhere else seems to exist in the current system to focus solely on the emotional aspects of our work without problem solving.’

Read more: Dr Jennifer Napier explains how Schwartz Rounds work

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