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Are we all in this together?

Farhana Nargis 15 June 2021

Our Programmes Manager, Farhana Nargis, looks at diversity and inclusion in healthcare and the unique role that Schwartz Rounds can play in giving a voice to people who are often not heard. 

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Our mission at The Point of Care Foundation is to humanise healthcare. To achieve this, we know that we must be inclusive of all people, and so we have made it our aim to make all of our activities accessible to and welcoming of everyone, regardless of any protected characteristic.  

Alongside the work we have been doing internally to build a more inclusive workplace culture, we are deeply aware of the exclusion and discrimination that exists in health and social care, and we have observed the unique role that Schwartz Rounds can play in giving a voice to people who are often not heard. 

‘Schwartz Celebrates Diversity’ month

Throughout March we hosted a ‘Schwartz Celebrates Diversity’ month. We asked organisations to run a Round on the theme of diversity and inclusion. We wanted to encourage representation at Rounds of under-represented groups, and in doing so, to shine a light on hidden stories. 

Telling our stories and reflecting on experiences in a safe environment, where we feel heard and validated, is so important – and arguably even more important for people whose voices are often overlooked. 

One of the benefits of Schwartz Rounds is their ability to highlight the issues facing specific groups of people. Sharing stories can help staff to find common ground and to understand the person behind the professional. This simple yet powerful forum can help participants gain a better understanding of one another’s roles and challenge the stigma of difficult and often taboo topics such as racism.  

Ashford and St Peter’s NHS Foundation Trust was one of the sites that ran a special Round in March. It was entitled ‘Be You, Be Accepted, Be Different’ and was an opportunity to hear colleagues share what it is like to be LGBTQ+.  

University Hospital Plymouth NHS Trust also marked ‘Schwartz Celebrates Diversity’ month by holding a Round on the topic of ‘Racism at work’. They told us: 

Two panelists shared different stories about the ways in which racism had impacted on their lives, professional and personal, past and present. Themes included the ways in which coping mechanisms to deal with racism are forged in early life, the painful impact and repercussions of speaking out, and the power of language. The stories showed ways in which our position in the hierarchy and career path impact on our experience of racism at work.

Throughout the month we collected anonymous data on all 110 participants who took part in Rounds. This data has given us a useful snapshot of the demographic of participants. It also highlights where we need to focus our efforts to ensure everyone is invited and feels included in Schwartz Rounds. We will be reporting on this data over the coming months. 

Schwartz Community events and awards

Also in March, we held our first Schwartz Community events of 2021.  These online events are for everyone involved in Schwartz Rounds to come together for networking and peer learning, as well as to recognise people and organisations from across the Schwartz community through our Schwartz Awards. We were delighted to announce Alder Hey Children’s Hospital as the winner of the ‘Most Powerful Round’, with an online Schwartz Round entitled ‘Are we all in this together?’. The moving stories told in that Round, along with all of this year’s entries can be viewed on our website. 

One of the workshops at the community events was on the theme of equality, diversity and inclusion. We were honoured to work with Hesham Abdalla, who spoke very movingly about his own experiences related to racism; of feeling more ‘outsider’ than ‘insider’ and how his experience has enabled him to empathise with people who are not being heard. Hesham reflected on how to create a sense of safety for people and said: 

It felt good to be part of a stimulating and constructive afternoon and we took what often becomes a bureaucratic discussion about equality, diversity and inclusion policy into something meaningful. It made me realise how touching peoples’ values changes attitudes in a way that rules, regulations and guidelines never achieve. We seemed to be making change not by forcing compliance, but by evoking commitment.

In one of the workshops we were joined by Jamie Willo, LGBTQ+/Gender Identity Inclusion Training Lead at Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. The discussion focused on accepting people for who they are; what it means to be an ‘ally’; and ways to influence and inspire action in leaders and organisations.  

The session both informed and inspired participants, and the group went away with actions to take back to their own organisations, such as running a diversity-themed Round and re-visiting the use of LGBTQ+ language in their Trust. Jamie reflected on the workshop, saying: 

It is important that we are kind to each other, that we educate ourselves on LGBTQ+ matters and that we reflect on our own part to play with regards to our own assumptions, beliefs and expectations.  The session felt important to get the conversation started. Participants were engaged, reflective and felt inspired to work towards being more inclusive in Schwartz Rounds. 

My own reflections

For me, it has been a real privilege to hear stories and experiences of ‘difference’; what it is and why it’s important to acknowledge, as well as the practical steps we can all take to become more inclusive. Why does it matter? By creating an inclusive environment, staff have increased empathy for patients and improved understanding of and communication with colleagues, reducing feelings of isolation among staff. 

What amazed me was how we can help a room full of people suspend any perceived judgements and really listen and take away meaningful actions to do things better. I was impressed by how the collective stories emphasised openness of conversation and depth of reflection.  Listening to others’ experiences of racism, discrimination and exclusion sparked important and meaningful conversations. 

Why does it matter? By creating an inclusive environment, staff have increased empathy for patients and improved understanding of and communication with colleagues, reducing feelings of isolation among staff. 

What next?

Clearly we can’t achieve our aim of becoming accessible to and welcoming of everyone simply by hosting a month of activities that focus on diversity and inclusion. Nor can the health and care workforce promote diversity and inclusion through a one-off Schwartz Round on the theme.  

However, the stories we have heard in Rounds from under-represented groups, and the feedback we have received from participants at our community events, has confirmed to us that we need to continue working towards this end.  

We would like to encourage anyone who has been involved in any of our programmes to complete this short survey on your experience of our activities and how accessible you felt they were. The form is completely anonymous so we won’t know who completes it, but it is an opportunity to let us know if there are things we can do to make our activities better. We take the feedback you give us seriously and will use it to help us to keep improving. 

We also want to hear from our Schwartz community about a Round you are hosting on the theme of diversity and inclusion. And if you have suggestions about how we might work towards greater diversity and inclusion in Schwartz Rounds, please get in touch with me or one of the Point of Care team. We would love to hear from you.