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Multidisciplinary forum, therapeutic service for caregivers slated

by Megan Fink
Public Relations
Whether it’s handling a case of a colleague becoming a patient, or working with families to properly execute a dying patient’s wishes, health care providers face many difficult emotional and ethical issues on the job. To provide support in dealing with these challenging issues, a new program at MUSC will offer a confidential, therapeutic forum for caregivers.
Schwartz Center Rounds planning group members, from left, the Rev. John Bosco Ikemeh, Ashley Lauresen, R.N.; Eva Petenbrink, Dr. Alice Boylan, Susan Beason, R.N.; Dr. Dee Ford, Dr. Lilless Shilling, Dr. Ramita Bonadonna, and Cherlyn Monroe discuss the impact of a particular case as practice for the first rounds scheduled for Nov. 7.

Schwartz Center Rounds is a nationwide program that began 12 years ago at Massachusetts General Hospital and has since been adopted at 148 sites in 29 states. MUSC is the only hospital in South Carolina to offer its employees this type of service.
“Outcomes of Schwartz Rounds at other institutions include support among the health care team and more participation as a team,” said Ramita Bonadonna, Ph.D., R.N., MUSC Schwartz Center Rounds program coordinator and psychiatric consultation liaison nurse for Therapeutic Services. “Talking about the social and emotional aspects of the work we do helps us develop empathy for each other and for our patients by emphasizing our common humanity. Teams of clinicians develop peer relationships rather than hierarchical ones, and begin to learn from each other while improving communication.” Other benefits are less stress and anxiety, and a higher job satisfaction for providers.
Submitted and selected cases are brought to a planning committee, which includes a chaplain, social worker, nurses, doctors, and facilitators from several departments. At the Schwartz Center Rounds, which is funded through a Schwartz Center grant, attendees discuss the impact of a particular case and receive insight from a rotating clinical panel. Rounds are both confidential from a patient and provider perspective in that case individuals’ identities are withheld. Providers are encouraged to share lessons learned with their clinical group while maintaining the confidentiality of group participants.
“It starts with the initial group that participates in the rounds,” said Dee Ford, M.D., physician leader for the MUSC Schwartz Center Rounds, medical director for Palliative Care, and assistant professor of Medicine. “Then you get people that come to the cases they were individually involved in, and they take different attitudes back to their workplace. These attitudes percolate throughout the institution. The rounds themselves are pivotal, but the ripple effect is what will really be exciting to see.”
Examples of cases to be discussed would deal with unrealistic patient/family expectations, delivering bad news, carrying out charity care when resources have run dry, working with the elderly, pain management, and losing a patient. “We can’t give from an empty cup,” Bonadonna said. “We can’t turn off our hearts at work and expect to open them at home. Yet, if we open up all the time, we feel drained.”
Schwartz Center Rounds will be held the first Friday of every month from noon-1 p.m. in Gazes Auditorium starting Nov. 7. Rounds are open to all hospital and university employees, trainees and students who are encouraged to bring cases to the planning group. Lunch will be provided.
For more information, visit, or submit a case for discussion by e-mailing or 792-6657.   

Friday, Oct. 24, 2008

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.