Caring for the Caregivers: Schwartz Rounds

After six years in healthcare I still have so much to learn, but one thing is certain: patients aren’t the only ones who suffer in hospitals. Caregivers can also experience a significant amount of suffering, not the least of which is the emotional and psychological effects of the situations they find themselves thrown into while caring for patients and their families.

It’s this emotional side of healthcare that rarely gets addressed. There are too many tasks to perform and protocols to follow to spend any time focusing on the emotional impact the work may be having, for good or for bad. With healthcare burn out on the rise and retention a hot topic for any healthcare leader, healthcare administrators are looking for solutions to these very real, very sensitive topics.

Enter Schwartz Rounds. Schwartz Rounds are all about caring for the caregiver and are one way to help with burn out and retention.  Usually when “rounds” are spoken of in a hospital setting they refer to checking in on the status of patients. Schwartz Rounds, conversely, check in on the status of the caregivers themselves.

“Schwartz Rounds are a place where people who don’t usually talk about the heart of the work are willing to share their vulnerability, to question themselves. The program provides an opportunity for dialogue that doesn’t happen anywhere else in the hospital.” – Participant
  The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare

Schwartz Rounds create an open forum for anyone who cares for patients–clinical or non–can come together to discuss the social and emotional issues that arise in caring for patients.

Here is how it works:


Prior to the forum, a case is chosen. There is great care in choosing the cases; it has to have had a significant impact on caregivers. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a hard or sad case, although I would say a majority of them probably are.  Often overlooked in healthcare is the necessity to talk about the positive emotional impact of the work.

Once a case is chosen, a panelist is chosen to present the case. There are facilitators to help the group process through and talk about the different emotional and social aspects the particular situation brought up for them. Caregivers who may not have been directly involved in the particular case can comment and participate by drawing on similar past experiences.

What’s cool is that everyone is invited, and it’s a way for the different teams of doctors, nurses, environmental staff, techs and anyone else involved in the care of a patient to come together, to share stories, to laugh and cry and leave strengthened.

According to The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare website, participants in Schwartz Rounds reported:

  • Increased insight into the social and emotional aspects of patient care; increased feelings of compassion toward patients; and increased readiness to respond to patients’ and families’ needs.
  • Improved teamwork, interdisciplinary communication, and appreciation for the roles and contributions of colleagues from different disciplines.
  • Decreased feelings of stress and isolation, and more openness to giving and receiving support.

Addressing the needs of caregivers is paramount to providing the best care for the patients they serve. It is also paramount to decrease burnout and help retain compassionate and skilled caregivers.  Schwartz Rounds is one way to help caregivers process through some of the suffering and some of the joy they experience while taking care of the people and the communities they serve everyday.


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