Martha Jurchak, PhD, RN, executive director, and Mary Greenwald, administrator
Ethics Service, Office of Clinical Ethics

From left: Incoming Schwartz Rounds facilitator Christine Mitchell, Stan Ashley, Jackie Somerville and outgoing facilitator Lynn Nichols

Compassionate, patient-centered care is the cornerstone of good health care. Delivering compassionate care depends on building strong provider-patient relationships, enhancing communication and promoting good teamwork. Yet, the unrelenting stresses of our modern health care system can make this harder than ever to do. One of the ways we nurture compassionate care is through our monthly Schwartz Rounds.

The BWH Schwartz Rounds provide a multidisciplinary forum to address the social, emotional and personal aspects of patient care. The rounds look at challenging cases from a teamwork perspective, giving the entire team—physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and others—a chance to articulate their thoughts, concerns and feelings in addressing a difficult or challenging provider-patient interaction. The premise is that caregivers are better able to make a personal connection with patients when they have greater awareness of and insight into their own responses and feelings.

The rounds are a program of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Health Care, the brainchild of Kenneth Schwartz, an attorney who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1994. During his treatment at Mass General, Schwartz came to realize that what matters most during an illness is the human connection between patients and their caregivers—it is this connection that makes “the unbearable bearable.” Schwartz founded the Schwartz Center to ensure that all patients experience the sustenance of compassionate connection during the healing process. BWH held its first Schwartz Rounds in 2000 and has been meeting monthly (with the exception of summers) ever since.

Each of the rounds features a panel of team members, occasionally joined by patients, discussing a case that raised a specific issue for them. A facilitator is present to encourage the exchange of ideas and reactions among panelists and audience members. Cases represent a wide range of topics and specialties, including caring for a colleague, hearing about delirium from a patient’s perspective, how one’s own issues of mortality come into play, when medical advice and religious conviction conflict, and stories of hope and miracles.

Rounds are held on the second Tuesday of each month in the Anesthesia Conference Room (CWN L-1) from noon to 1 p.m., with lunch served at 11:45 a.m. All hospital staff are invited to attend. If you would like to be added to the Schwartz Rounds email list, or have a case that you would like considered for discussion at future rounds, contact Mary Greenwald at