Storytelling and affiliation between healthcare staff in Schwartz Round interactions: A conversation analytic study

Sarah Atkins, Alison Pilnick, Jill Maben, Laura Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is well known that the demands of working in healthcare can take a psychological toll on staff. Schwartz Centre Rounds are an intervention aimed at supporting staff wellbeing through providing a forum to talk about the emotional, social and ethical complexities of such work, employing facilitated storytelling and group discussion to try and achieve this. However, while prior research, through extensive interviews and surveys, has found Schwartz Rounds to be effective in fostering compassion and wellbeing amongst participants, the talk that occurs within Schwartz Rounds themselves has not been explored. One mechanism that has been considered in how Schwartz Rounds function is the creation of a ‘counter-cultural’, conversational space, suggesting the nature of the interactions themselves may be important in achieving their beneficial effects. Using conversation analytic (CA) methods, we examine Schwartz Rounds in the UK to address, at a detailed micro-level, how sequences of talk work to accomplish the key aims of this setting. Five separate one-hour Schwartz Rounds were recorded across three UK hospital Trusts, between January 2019 and February 2020. Our analysis addresses how panellists tell their stories in a way that emphasises the uniqueness of their experience but also provides a generalisable emotional ‘upshot’ and ‘stance’ for the audience to later respond to. We then focus in on how audience members are able to respond to these stories affiliatively, offering endorsements, generalisations and second stories. Drawing on prior CA literature examining support groups and psychotherapy, we consider how the format of Schwarz Rounds creates important opportunities for interpersonal affiliation in this context. Considering these interactional features alongside other research findings on Schwartz Rounds, we discuss how opportunities for interactional affiliation may be central to their success, with implications for how these interactions can be best facilitated.

Original languageEnglish
Article number116111
Number of pages23
JournalSocial science and medicine
Early online date26 Jul 2023
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2023 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Ltd.


  • conversation analysis
  • affiliation
  • interaction
  • storytelling
  • emotion
  • wellbeing in healthcare


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