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‘Team Time’ – reflecting together on the Covid crisis

Julian Groves 30 March 2020

The Covid 19 crisis presents challenges for providing moral support to health and care workers. Julian Groves outlines our approach to supporting small-scale, virtual, team-based reflection across the Schwartz community.

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I am one amongst many, many people who can only stand and wonder at the courage and fortitude of all those working in health and social care (and in many other important sectors) as the winds of anxiety and fear swirl around them. The homepage of our website sums up how we at the Point of Care Foundation feel:

“Maintaining humanity in healthcare is more important than ever as we face down the Covid 19 epidemic. We stand with all health and care workers responding to this crisis.”

There is much testimony on social and older media from those working at the frontline about their day-to-day experiences. Varying degrees of stress and outright trauma are being reported in health and social care at present, without any pause or downturn in sight. It is interesting and instructive to read in the Lancet of the reactions of carers in China who are some weeks ‘ahead’ of us. It is noticeable how the eventual response by the authorities to their concerns was principally in the form of helping them with their basic needs – places where staff could isolate themselves away from their families, guaranteed food and daily living supplies, protective equipment and guidance on how to use it, and assistance with communicating with their families to help reassure their loved ones.

In the UK we can now see an emerging effort through a volunteer workforce to help NHS and other staff with some of these basic needs. 

It is against this background that we are receiving a stream of enquiries about running Schwartz Rounds online and questions about what other support might be on offer. As my colleague Farhana Nargis puts it, “Even in the midst of a crisis people still recognise the healing and therapeutic experience of witnessing authentic storytelling that so often occurs in the Rounds.” 

We are conscious though of making sure that any interventions we now offer, including virtual ones, are practical, accessible and appropriate in the current environment. As Farhana and other wise heads in the Schwartz community point out, “Rounds are often held on a topic where staff have had the opportunity to process and digest a difficult case – and people are recommended to steer away from ‘live’ cases.” As we approach the height of the current crisis, we must be careful to avoid trying to address issues for which Schwartz Rounds are not the appropriate solution.  

Following consultations with members of the Schwartz community we have decided to provide short, online training sessions for those already qualified as facilitators, to help them consider how best to run what we are calling ‘Team Time’. Team Time has the core features of Schwartz Rounds, but in a virtual format. We are recommending this intervention be run in smaller groups and not organisation-wide, where individuals are known to each other and have the common cause of a department or specialty.  

There is a considerable appetite for this kind of support in the Schwartz community and we will be running Team Time virtual training sessions from Monday 6th April. We will be communicating by email with all trained facilitators to let them know how they can book onto the hour-long sessions, which we hope to run multiple times a day over two weeks.

I am struck by the words of Ben Okri who recently wrote about the anxiety his friends have talked about in recent conversations, including intensely imagined symptoms: “It occurred to me that there might be a dimension to the pandemic that could be called mental contagion….. Perhaps it is time to develop another mental contagion to counteract the force of the deadly one. Perhaps it is time to develop a contagion of courage, good health, and solidarity.” By carefully developing and delivering Team Time online, the Schwartz community may be part of this positive contagion.

Please look out for emails and tweets about this initiative in the coming week.

In the meantime, keep safe and well.

Update: Trained Schwartz Rounds facilitators and clinical leads can book a free online training session through our Events page. We are running three sessions each day until 17th April 2020.