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ECMC Launches Schwartz Center Rounds

Nationally recognized program helps employees strive to create best patient and family experience

BUFFALO, NEW YORK; September 25, 2012-Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation today announced that it will begin offering a regular forum for its employees to openly and honestly discuss the most challenging emotional and social issues that arise in caring for patients and their families.  The program, called Schwartz Center Rounds®, has been found to increase compassionate care, improve teamwork, and reduce caregiver stress. 

Schwartz Center Rounds are a program of The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare, a Boston-based nonprofit dedicated to strengthening the relationship between patients and caregivers.  Unlike traditional medical rounds, the focus is on the human dimension of healthcare.  Caregivers share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings on topics drawn from actual patient cases.  The principle is that caregivers are better able to make personal connections with patients, families, and colleagues when they have greater insight into their own feelings. 

"Compassionate care is becoming increasingly difficult to provide in today's fast-paced, technology-focused, and cost-conscious healthcare environment," said Schwartz Center Executive Director Julie Rosen.  "Financial pressures and administrative demands mean less time with patients and families and an emphasis on diagnosis and treatment rather than the impact an illness may have on the patient and family." 

"We know that many caregivers today deal with many increasing clinical demands and emotional situations in the care of our patients and their families," explained Jody L. Lomeo, Chief Executive Officer, ECMC Corp.  "We want to be able to provide our employees with a supportive outlet for expressing these feelings and methods for developing coping skills so they can continue to provide compassionate care to our patients and families." 

Schwartz Center Rounds were first piloted at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston in 1997.  Since then, the program has grown rapidly as the need has increased.  Today, Schwartz Center Rounds are conducted at hundreds of hospitals and other healthcare institutions across the country and at nine hospitals in the United Kingdom.  

According to a comprehensive evaluation of the program published in 2010 in Academic Medicine, the journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), Schwartz Center Rounds strengthen the patient-caregiver relationship and remind caregivers why they entered the healthcare profession in the first place.  Caregivers who participated in multiple Rounds sessions reported:

• Increased insight into the social and emotional aspects of patient care, increased feelings of compassion toward patients, and increased readiness to respond to patients' and families' needs;

• Improved teamwork, interdisciplinary communication, and appreciation for the roles and contributions of colleagues from different disciplines; and

• Decreased feelings of stress and isolation, and more openness to receiving and giving support.

Rounds also had a positive impact on the culture of host institutions, with more than half of evaluation respondents reporting specific changes in departmental or hospital-wide policies and practices, particularly a greater use of palliative care services. 

"From all indications, the need for a program like Schwartz Center Rounds is great," said Rosen.  "In a national survey we conducted last year, more than 80% of patients said they believe that good communication and emotional support can make a difference in how well patients recover from illness and even whether they live or die.  Yet their ratings of how well their caregivers demonstrated compassionate care fell short of their expectations." 

"We congratulate Erie County Medical Center on recognizing the importance of the patient-caregiver relationship, and we look forward to working with them to advance compassionate care for all patients and families," she added. 

About ECMC: The Erie County Medical Center (ECMC) Corporation includes an advanced academic medical center (ECMC) with 550 inpatient beds and 136 skilled-nursing-home beds, on- and off-campus health centers, more than 30 outpatient specialty care clinics and a long-term care facility.  ECMC is the regional center for trauma, burn care, transplantation and rehabilitation and is a major teaching facility for the University at Buffalo.  Most ECMC physicians, dentists and pharmacists are dedicated faculty members of the university and/or members of a private practice plan.  More Western New York residents are choosing ECMC for exceptional patient care and patient experiences-the difference between healthcare and true care. 

About The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare: The Schwartz Center for Compassionate Healthcare (http://www.theschwartzcenter.org/) reflects the vision of Ken Schwartz, a Boston healthcare attorney who died of lung cancer at the age of 40 and found that what mattered to him most as a patient was the compassionate care he received from his caregivers, which he said "made the unbearable bearable." He established the Schwartz Center just days before his death to ensure that all patients receive compassionate care.  In addition to sponsoring Schwartz Center Rounds, the Schwartz Center develops and funds other innovative programs, recognizes and honors caregivers who demonstrate extraordinary compassion, and supports policies that promote and advance compassionate care.

NEWS CONTACT: Joe Cirillo, ECMC, (716) 898-4300, jcirillo@ecmc.edu



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