Caregiver support program celebrated

Greenwich Hospital is celebrating the fifth anniversary of its Schwartz Center Rounds program, designed to provide emotional and spiritual support to professional caregivers, including doctors and nurses.

The national initiative began with a grant from the Kenneth B. Schwartz Center in Boston, Mass. It was started by attorney Ken Schwartz who, during his 10-month struggle with cancer, said he came came to realize that what matters most during an illness is the human connection between patients and their caregivers.

Mr. Schwartz wrote how “the smallest acts of kindness” make “the unbearable bearable.”

At Greenwich Hospital, the monthly meetings are open to every staff member.

“These meetings are not meant to be a passive gathering. The discussions are often lively and always thought-provoking,” said Spike Lipschutz, Greenwich Hospital’s vice president for medical services and chief quality officer who introduced Schwartz Rounds to the hospital.

The group discusses issues such as delivering bad news to a patient and family, what it feels like when a patient doesn’t agree with professional recommendations, has unrealistic expectations, is uncooperative, or when members of a family disagree with each other as to what is best. Sometimes the group discusses balancing work and personal life, and separating emotions from a stressful work schedule that occasionally requires an 80-hour week, or how humor helps to relieve tension, but can also be misinterpreted when a patient feels vulnerable.

“Schwartz Center Rounds are not meant to be about medical issues. They are about feelings,” said staff chaplain Judy Holding, who facilitates the monthly meetings. “The objective is to provide emotional support for our professional caregivers. The rounds provide a structured and safe outlet for staff to express feelings and share the same level of compassion for coworkers that they do for our patients and families.”

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