Systems Thinking

Conference Presentation: Destination: Patient Outcomes – Our Journey to Improving Patient Care

When We Are Better Together: Developing a Community of Practice Around Schwartz Compassion Rounds

Monday, January 22
3:30 PM - 4:30 PM
Location: Mediterranean 2

Physician Credits: 1.0

Nursing CE Credits: 1.0

Pharmacy Credits: 1.0

ACPE UAN: 0809-9999-18-089-L04-P (Knowledge)

Session Description
Given the pressures of the healthcare industry, institutions and their staff are often left to problem solve within their own institution. Barriers to collaboration are real. Most hospitals are not located in close proximity to one another making physical connection difficult. The culture of most medical practices remains in isolation, with many providers unfortunately still practicing in silos. Finally, industrial competition to be the ‘best health care system’ in the area can make open communication potentially threatening. Our group did something truly innovative. We broke through barriers within our individual healthcare systems and formed a community of practice around a common goal.  

The panel will use a case study to describe how through Schwartz Compassion Rounds, an internationally lauded program that fosters compassion among healthcare providers, five competing health care systems collaborated for what was considered to be the common good. Schwartz Rounds addresses the ACGME/ABMS core competency of Interpersonal and Communication Skills and the Interprofessional Education Collaboration competency domains of Interprofessional Communications and Teams and Teamwork. We will outline how we initiated our start up group despite having no role models among our community of Schwartz Center member organizations. We will address barriers we encountered both within our institutions and within our group as well as solutions we discovered. 

Initially, our charter group of administrative leaders and Schwartz Rounds planners started out to help mentor newer Schwartz Rounds core leaders at other hospitals in the area. Our mission was clear that each system remained independent and in charge of its own Schwartz Rounds curriculum, processes and execution, yet maintained a collaboration-friendly culture so that the leaders could learn from each other and innovate. We quickly began to reflect what the Schwartz Rounds were experientially doing for staff. We had created a group where we could be vulnerable in sharing with each other our successes and failures about our own rounds. Offering support, reflection, listening to one another and exchanging ideas has led to an emotionally supportive community of practice. 

This presentation will explain how our community of practice developed, barriers encountered and some of the operational changes that resulted. We will also give examples of how Schwartz Rounds can affect the emotional well-being of health care providers both clinical and non-clinical. Supported staff who are emotionally resilient are more likely to be emotionally present for patients and their families. Our group has shown competition in the healthcare marketplace does not preclude competing institutions from finding common ground for delivering compassionate care. 

Learning Objectives:

Amy N. Cowan

Assistant Professor of Medicine
University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City, Utah

Dr. Amy Cowan is a hospitalist at the George E. Wahlen Department of Veteran Affairs Medical Center. She also serves as a physician champion for the Schwartz Rounds for Compassionate Care at the University of Utah Hospital. Amy is passionate about fostering a culture of wellness within the hospital for doctors in training and staff.


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David J. Pascoe

Manager of Palliative Care, Chaplaincy and Bereavement
Primary Children's Hospital/Intermountain Healthcare
Salt Lake City, Utah

Chaplain David Pascoe is the manager of palliative care, chaplaincy and bereavement at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, where he has worked for the last 6 years. Prior to that, David worked as a hospice chaplain and grief counselor. He completed his Clinical Pastoral Education as an intern at the VA Medical Center in Salt Lake and became a board certified Clinical Chaplain. He is also certified as a Clinical Fellow in Hospice and Palliative Care. When not caring for patients and their families, David can usually be found supporting the emotional well-being of staff through one-on-one encounters and hospital-wide programs such as Schwartz Rounds. David has served as a board member of The Bradley Center for Grieving Children and Families, has presented numerous times at the Utah Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, and is a recognized speaker on topics such as caregiver support, grief and bereavement, cultural competency, and the role of spirituality in healthcare.


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Maria Gamvroulas

Director of Medical Social Work
Primary Children's Hospital
Salt Lake City, Utah

Ms. Gamvroulas is director of medical social work at Primary Children's Hospital. She has had a 29 year career with Primary Children's hospital with hopes of having another 6- 8 years with this institution. She also serves as facilitator and core committee member for the Schwartz Compassion Rounds at Primary Children's Hospital and is one of the founding members of the Salt Lake, Schwartz Rounds Community of Leadership Team.


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Jack Dolcourt

Professor of Pediatrics / Associate Dean for Continuing Medical Education
University of Utah School of Medicine
Salt Lake City, Utah

Dr. Dolcourt is a neonatologist and frequently treats newborn infants experiencing withdrawal symptoms due to neonatal abstinence syndrome. He is actively involved with all forms of continuing professional development at the University of Utah School of Medicine.


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