Each year, BWH receives hundreds of thank you letters from patients and family members who have experienced care at BWH. Though each shared story is unique, there is a common theme that ties them together: compassion. Even in the midst of personal struggles, BWH patients often take the time to write about their care experience. And these letters do not go unnoticed.
During Schwartz Center Rounds, a monthly multidisciplinary forum where caregivers discuss important emotional and social issues that arise in patient care, Jackie Somerville, PhD, RN, chief nursing officer and senior vice president of Patient Care Services, and Stan Ashley, MD, chief medical officer, gathered in front of a full conference room to read a few patient letters and launch a discussion on the topic of compassionate care.
“It’s a hard thing to define, but patients know it when they see it,” said Ashley, as he recalled a time when he was a patient at the Brigham. “I felt helpless and totally dependent. What a difference it makes when the right person walks into the room.”
“We each bring energy when we walk into a room—positive or negative—and it can have an effect on those around us,” said Somerville. Staying upset is increasingly more difficult when everyone else around you is positive and happy, she added.
Walking into a room with a friendly and compassionate disposition is sometimes easier said than done when stress at home, traffic and other factors are competing for our attention and energy. Somerville shared some tips that she practices daily in order to be fully present for each interaction at work.
“To get into the right state of mind, I set an intention for the day and do some deep breathing,” she said. “Compassionate care is a choice. We can choose how we want to be. You can label someone as a difficult patient, or you can be curious and try to understand what is really going on.”
Interdisciplinary huddles within the hospital also adopted the concept of setting an intention and checking in throughout the day in order to hold clinicians accountable.
Want to join the discussion? Schwartz Center Rounds are open to all hospital staff and take place on the second Tuesday of each month at noon in the Anesthesia Conference Room. Lunch is provided, beginning at 11:45 a.m. Have you witnessed an act of compassionate care at BWH that you’d like to recognize? You can nominate the employee to be part of the Brigham Way campaign by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.