December 13, 2018
Last week, I attended Schwartz Rounds in the Sasktel Theatre at Royal University Hospital. Dozens of nurses, doctors, therapists, social workers, managers, care aides and more gathered over the lunch hour to listen, reflect on and share our personal experiences as people working in health care. Schwartz Rounds, also referred to as Compassion Rounds, are about taking the time to take care of ourselves.
Ken Schwartz was a 40-year-old nonsmoker when he was diagnosed with advanced lung cancer. During the last 10 months of his life, Mr. Schwartz found what I imagine many of our patients discover during illness and distress – “what matters most during an illness is the human connection between patients and their caregivers” (The Schwartz Centre). During his battle with cancer, he mapped out an organization he wanted to create, one that supported compassion in health care for the benefit of patients and their caregivers. For more than 20 years, the Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare has been supporting compassion in action for health care workers and the people who access and depend on health care services and programs.
More than 450 organizations around the world are Schwartz Center health care members – only five of which are in Canada. Royal University Hospital joined three years ago thanks to the generous support of the Royal University Hospital Foundation and its donors. The former Saskatoon Health Region pursued the introduction of Schwartz Rounds as part of its 2015 Safety Initiative.
A healthy workforce is absolutely foundational if we are going to succeed in our shared goal of always providing safe, high quality care to our patients, residents, clients and their families. We cannot and will not be successful as an organization if we don’t take better care of each other, so that we can in turn take care of those we serve. Part of this is recognizing the impact of the work we do not only on our physical health but also on our emotional, psychological and spiritual health.
Thankfully, it’s becoming more “normal” for doctors to talk with each other about what we experience in the process of caring for others. I’m proud of the physicians who have bravely share their experiences and emotions (both laughter and tears) with their colleagues, whether it is during Schwartz Rounds, in the quiet moments at work or over a quick coffee at the end of the day. I hear more of this sharing in my work as CMO, as I listen to doctors and other health care providers talk about why they do what they do. The more I listen the more convinced I am that our strength comes from our vulnerability and our connections to each other; it is this shared support that helps us feel part of something bigger.
Last week’s Schwartz Rounds focused on a theme of gratitude. Staff and physicians shared personal stories of why they do what they do. Several themes emerged as they spoke. Participants consistently talked about the importance of being on a team, having a shared sense of purpose, being part of something bigger and the whole being greater than the parts, as well as the small acts of kindness that have a profound impact on our health and well-being. Members of the audience shared their own stories of how meaningful and important it is to hear how things turn out for both patients and our colleagues, as well as how impactful it is to feel like we are making a difference in the lives of our patients when they and their families express gratitude.
One of the speakers at last week’s Schwartz Rounds said something I hadn’t really considered. She was grateful that she lived in a province, a city and a community where she has the privilege of providing care to her neighbours and their families. I think she’s right – it really is a privilege to be part of our community and to have the opportunity to care for the people in it.
How do you practice gratitude? What brings you joy in your work?
Please let me know at
Dr. Susan Shaw
Chief Medical Officer