At a community hospital in southern New Jersey, Schwartz Center Rounds® have become a welcome and much-needed addition. When the hospital first started the program more than three years ago, it received an immediate positive response from staff. While the topics have varied – from the loss of patients to violence against staff – each time the room is full of caregivers eager to hear about the experiences of their co-workers, learn about the strategies they have used to cope with difficult situations, and to be there to support them.
This particular session was going to be very different. About two months before, the planning committee had decided to give back to the staff by making this particular session about celebrating the work caregivers do every day and the positive impact they have on their community. So on a beautiful fall day, 55 staff members sat and listened as three families shared their experiences and said “thank you.” It was appropriate that Thanksgiving was just around the corner.
The first family was a young couple whose twins had been born prematurely and spent three months in the NICU. The parents praised every single staff member who had cared for their children. They could not thank the staff enough for educating them, preparing them for what was ahead, and for being an extension of them when they had to go home at night. The mom shared that they had even made one of the RNs their children’s godfather because of the close bond they had formed. The parents reported that their children were healthy and joyfully announced that they were expecting another child.
The second family consisted of the grown children of a patient who had died in the hospital. The patient, who had suffered from an unexpected illness, had spent time in a several different hospital units. The family praised the staff in each unit and spoke about how caregivers had not only helped them make their mother comfortable at the end of life, but also helped them accept their mother’s death.
The family spoke about how staff had helped them cope by breaking down the experience into increments of time. Looking at each day as a new day helped them from becoming overwhelmed by all the information coming their way. They also spoke about the privacy they were given to say their goodbyes and how important it had been to bring in photos to help remember happy times, as staff had suggested.
One family member praised an RN in the ICU who had performed Reiki on her mother. As the daughter described the touch and comfort her mother experienced, a peaceful feeling came over the room. Her story made everyone proud to be part of an organization that provides this kind of care and compassion to a grieving family.
The third family also shared their story of loss and thanked the staff for making the process easier for them. This family spoke of their parents’ 75-year love story and their unexpected admission to the hospital within just hours of one other. Their father at age 90 had been cutting the grass and had just made a trip to the bank when he became acutely ill. Soon after his admission, it was clear that he would not recover and so the family agreed to comfort care only. To enable the couple to be together, staff found two single rooms next to one another on the same floor and put a lounge chair in their father’s room so their mother could be near him. There she was able to comfort and be with him until he died.
These three families provided an invaluable gift to the staff members in the room that day. Caregivers left feeling proud of what they do on a daily basis, but also re-energized to keep providing compassionate care to other families in need.
Please note that some case details have been changed to protect patient confidentiality. Photo does not depict the actual patients.