‘We needed to talk about it’: The experience of sharing the emotional impact of health care work as a panellist in Schwartz Center Rounds® in the UK

Imelda McCarthy*, Cath Taylor, Mary Leamy, Ellie Reynolds, Jill Maben

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review



Schwartz Center Rounds® (‘Rounds’) are multidisciplinary forums where health care staff come together to reflect upon the emotional impact of their work. In each Round, a small number of staff (panellists) share experiences through stories to trigger reflection in audience members. Previous research has identified impacts associated with Rounds’ attendance, but little is known about the experience and impact of Rounds from panellists’ perspectives. This study is the first to explore the role of disclosure and reflection through storytelling in Rounds, specifically exploring panellists’ motivations, experiences and reported impacts associated with panel participation.

Interviews with 50 panellists, from nine case-study sites in the United Kingdom, representing acute, community and mental health National Health Service trusts and hospices. Data were analysed using thematic analysis.

Most panellists spoke positively about their experience of sharing their stories in Rounds. Reported impacts included: increased emotional resilience and acceptance of experiences; reduced negative assumptions about colleagues and increased approachability and trust increasing tolerance and compassion; the creation of a space to stop and think and to reframe negative patient experiences facilitating greater empathy and emotional disclosure becoming more visible and normative, thereby helping change culture. Impacts on staff were similar regardless of contextual variability, including their professional group or role, with the exception of impact on patient care, which was not mentioned by non-clinical staff. The extent of panel preparation and audience characteristics (e.g. size, composition and response to their stories) influenced panellists’ experiences and outcomes.

Rounds highlight the important role of disclosure and reflection through storytelling to support panellists with the emotional aspects of their work, providing a space for support with the emotional demands of health care, reducing the need for employees to be stoic. Panel participation also offers an important source of validation in organizations marked by scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Health Services Research and Policy
Issue number1
Early online date27 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/) which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (https://us.sagepub.com/en-us/nam/open-access-at-sage).
Funding: This paper presents selected findings from independent research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research (HS&DR – Project: 13/07/49)


  • Schwartz Rounds
  • reflection
  • staff well-being


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