Schwartz Rounds provide a safe, reflective forum for clinical and non-clinical staff to come together and discuss the emotional aspects of their job. Following the success of Schwartz Rounds in the NHS, the Mind Matters Initiative is currently developing a pilot to explore their effectiveness in a veterinary context.
Here, Amy Martin (pictured) writes about how a Schwartz Round helped identify and address themes of guilt and anger among colleagues at her veterinary hospital group.
Amy Martin BSc (Hons) RVN, DipAVN, DipHE CVN NCert(BusDev) MBVNA General Manager.
Amy is a Registered Veterinary Nurse with 12 years management experience. Her passion is the wellbeing of staff, it is her belief that happy staff deliver phenomenal patient care.
Addressing the emotional impact of veterinary practice
Back in 2017 we decided that Schwartz Rounds would be useful for our organisation, a veterinary hospital group of three practices. Schwartz Rounds are a unique forum that enables clinical and non-clinical staff to come together to discuss the emotional and psychological impacts of our work. As an organisation focused on the wellbeing of its staff this seemed like a good fit for us.
This Round, our fifth, was called ‘Bad Endings’ – a title that was sure to inspire a powerful Round, but just how powerful was a surprise to me. The stories were very different but it quickly became apparent during the group discussion that many of us had not reflected on our emotions with regards to euthanasia and death in our patients. Operating as we do in a busy first opinion practice, taking both emergencies and referrals, it can be hard to take any time between cases to examine the emotional impact what we have just witnessed has on us as people.
Themes emerged, such as guilt over calling the right time for euthanasia, anger with the situation and ultimately sadness that we had to let another one go. Deep bonds are formed with our patients over many years. We first see them as babies and let them go as (mostly) as old pets. What also emerged was the bonds we also form with the owners of our patients and when we lose a patient this can often mean saying goodbye to old friends.
All our staff, clinical and non-clinical, have been invited to Rounds and we have had good attendance from all disciplines. It has helped us to see our work from one another’s point of view and has already begun to effect change in our organisation as a ripple from the issues discussed during Rounds.
Facilitating is not an easy job and this time I found myself swept away remembering stories from my own clinical practice and shed tears along with a number of other staff members. The great thing about this is that I didn’t feel awkward, I felt as though I was among friends. Hopefully showing my vulnerability has helped to indicate that no matter what your position these feelings are normal, can and should be discussed and acknowledged.
We have noticed during other Rounds, in our short history of running them, that euthanasia is a topic which has been revisited many times and we have a feeling this will continue in future Rounds. It will be important to keep exploring this to enable us to continue to be compassionate caregivers. The support and encouragement from The Point of Care Foundation has been invaluable as we embark on being the first veterinary practice to offer Rounds to its staff.
Amy Martin, August 2018
What are Schwartz Rounds?
Schwartz Rounds are a safe, confidential, voluntary, reflective forum for all staff, both clinical and non-clinical to come together to discuss the emotional and social aspects of their jobs. Rounds follow a standard model determining how they should be run, ensuring that they can be replicated across different settings. They normally take place once a month, for an hour at a time, usually at lunch time with food provided. The basic format of a Round is that a panel of three or four staff members from different disciplines present stories of personal experiences, based on a topic or case. After the stories have been told, two trained facilitators open the discussion to the audience, inviting audience members to reflect on the stories and their own experiences. Rounds are purely reflective, and the intention is that outcomes or solutions are not discussed.
The Rounds are licensed by The Point of Care Foundation who provide assistance and training in embedding Rounds with organisational practice.
For more information on Schwartz Rounds contact firstname.lastname@example.org