Walking in each other’s shoes: the new way Western Sydney Local Health District staff are connecting in the name of staff wellbeing and patient experience

(Stock image)

Schwartz Rounds, a forum that offers patient-facing district staff a safe space to openly discuss and reflect on shared experiences and the issues they face when caring for patients and families, has received overwhelming positive feedback from staff across Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD).

Debuting on 14 February, the Rounds will continue to run for an hour each month during 2023 and will explore familiar topics with the help of three staff members from different occupational areas who share a brief story from their work.

The facilitators then work off these stories to have a conversation of sharing and reflecting with the audience with a focus on what the experience was really like and how it made a staff member feel.

It is the hope that the Rounds will bolster interprofessional learning, reduce psychological distress and promote staff wellbeing.

Dr Kiran Lele, a psychiatrist at Westmead Hospital and Schwartz Rounds facilitator, explained that this special forum allows staff to better understand each other through open and honest conversations about their experiences without the pressure of finding a solution.

“In health, we are always part of problem-solving/solution-focused conversations; this is not that,” said Dr Lele.

Schwartz Rounds provides a very rare opportunity to have a reflective and open conversation about what an experience was really like – this is more about listening than it is about fixing.

“It [in turn] gives staff the opportunity to understand what it is like to be in the shoes of other staff and thereby value the roles that these other staff play.”

Dr Lele further explains that understanding these different relationships can be very important to a particular patient’s journey.

“A physiotherapist for example may have very little understanding of the importance of the relationship that a patient has built with a hospital porter as the porter takes them to their radiotherapy sessions every day,” said Dr Lele.

“This is why interprofessional learning is so important – staff from many parts of the hospital come together to understand one another.”

The first Schwartz Rounds held on 14 February, covered the theme of “first experiences” and included topics such as the protection that professional roles provide and how difficult it is when that breaks down, feeling out of depth, and the importance of maintaining compassion when a patient is highly distressed.

Nicole Taylor, a nurse who attended the first session, was pleasantly surprised by the calmness in the room and the opportunity to reflect.

She said, “As nurses, we always want to find the solutions and go to ”how can I fix it”; but we were gently told this was not the purpose of the session, and it made sense”.

“We all need time to reflect,” further explained Nicole.

“Caring for ourselves is the first step in caring for others.”

According to research, another key benefit of the Schwartz Rounds model is it helps to reduce the feeling of isolation in staff during difficult experiences and helps to normalise finding experiences difficult or distressing.

The forum also highlights the importance of acknowledging and addressing the mental health challenges faced by healthcare workers and provides a unique opportunity for healthcare workers to recognise their own humanity and treat themselves with compassion.

“Ultimately, the Schwartz Rounds will help renew the focus on the human aspects of the work we do which ultimately benefits the patients we serve,” said Dr Lele.

“In the past, healthcare workers were sometimes taught that having difficult feelings while working with patients was a bad thing, and they needed to be hard and invincible; however, we now know that being human is essential to recognising the humanity of our patients and treating them with compassion.”

If you are a staff member who wants to get involved, Schwartz Rounds are help on the second Tuesday of every month.
Where: John Lowenthal Auditorium, Westmead Hospital WECC
When: 12 – 1pm
RSVP is not required, just bring your lunch and join us