Well-being in the Workforce – Why Food Matters

In my last post I wrote about the importance of well-being for ourselves and how we can maintain our own well-being.   We can also have a role to play in the well-being of our colleagues in health and social care.  

One of the areas that I have become involved in is in the development and delivery of Schwartz Rounds in the North West.  For those of you who may not be aware of Schwartz Rounds, they are a one hour facilitated meeting where healthcare professionals as well as support staff can consider the ‘caring and human dimension of their work’(Point of Care Foundation, 2014).   A case is presented by a panel of three or four people usually from different disciplines and focuses on a particular theme.  The intention is to ‘allow staff from all disciplines to consider their experience of providing care – especially any challenging emotional or social issues’ (ibid).  It is not about solving problems.  A Schwartz Round always has food provided as ‘a practical demonstration of the Rounds’ intention to support staff’ (ibid). The evidence for Schwartz rounds suggests they increase compassion in attendees and also can improve team working and these are known to have an effect on improved patient experience and outcomes. 

The North West project that I jointly lead held an event three weeks ago to start the development of a community of practice and to look at how more organisations can develop Schwartz Rounds and how organisations that are running Schwartz Rounds can make them sustainable.   About 35 people attended the meeting and it was great to be able to start this conversation. 

One of the things I have found in developing Schwartz rounds and which certainly resonated with some colleagues at the Schwartz event two week ago was that one of the main challenges is the provision of food.  Questions have been asked about using budgets to pay for food and also whether staff could bring their own food.  One aspect of Schwartz Rounds is that the provision of food is key to the format whether the Round takes place at lunchtime, early morning, afternoon or evening.  Certainly, the informal feedback I have noticed is that attendees value the food provision and comment on it positively and in a way that suggests it isn’t expected.   A wide range of staff members attend Schwartz rounds and they are often from staff groups who don’t regularly attend meetings where food is provided.  

Why is food important?  Also, why is the space and time to eat it important? The latter question is easier to answer in that many of us work in busy jobs and some of us certainly tend to find ourselves eating over our desks or computers rather than taking time out.  However, the offer of food is important in itself.  We appreciate that colleagues bring food to share with us.  Sitting down and sharing food in itself can enable people to have conversations that are not purely transactional or task-focused.  Therefore, to enable people to be able to reflect we need to create the conditions to make this possible.  The space before the Schwartz Round itself is therefore as important to allow people to fully engage with the process.  Rushing from one appointment or meeting to another does not promote reflection on the emotional aspects of our work or even stopping to think.  So even if we don’t attend Schwartz Rounds, can we use some of these principles to allow a bit of space in our busy days to promote our own compassion and team working?

For more information on Schwartz Rounds:  http://www.pointofcarefoundation.org.uk/Home/   

For more information on the Schwartz Rounds project in the North West:  http://www.nwppn.nhs.uk/index.php/events/schwartz

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Well-being of the workforce


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