Monday, October 30, 2006

Sweet Music

A few months ago, I asked a friend of mine, Nancy Kleiman, to play her harp in several places in the hospital, just as an experiment. The reponse was so positive that a donor funded the program, and we have made it a regular thing. The comments from patients and staff have been very positive. Here is the latest note from Nancy, which tells some marvelous stories:

Dear Paul,
There has not been one day since I've begun to play the harp at the BIDMC that I haven't had a significant experience to record in my journal. But in this past week alone, the events that have occurred have been so overwhelming that I wanted to take a moment to describe for you how your vision and investment are making a difference in our community.

It began when a patient in a wheel chair, on her way to an appointment, approached me to say that she was a classically trained harpist who could no longer play her pedal harp because of her MS. During our chat, I invited her to return and try a small harp I owned that she could hold in her lap with the help of a bar that rests under her legs. This Monday when she met me in the Shapiro lobby people gathered around to watch and listen to us play a duet! A social worker looking on wept at this remarkable site. The harpist was so thrilled to be able to play the harp again that she plans to purchase a similar one. I have invited her to a harp workshop I am hosting next weekend where another of your employees, a harpist in your sleep clinic, is speaking about her work. Already, Barbara [chief of social work] and I are talking about getting this harpist involved in the hospital's support for other MS patients.

Thursday as I was playing, a social worker was about to begin a workshop to address self-care for other social workers and asked if I would come and speak about my work and be the "experiential" part of her workshop. She had the social workers close their eyes and simply relax as I played for them. She had attended another workshop where a harpist colleague of mind who started the MGH program spoke and performed this way. As we were chatting, a patient - also a musician - came over to tell me that as she entered the lobby she could tell instantly that what she was hearing was live music. She said she looked up at the harp and was no longer in a hospital.

Although I usually do not come in Friday, I checked my email and had an urgent request from a harpist at the GentleMuse program at MGH. A family of a dying patient at the Brigham and Women's had called for a harpist to do a "death vigil" for their mother who had been expected to die the day before. Of course, I called the family and they were thrilled that I could be there immediately. I simply took out my harp in the Shapiro lobby and walked it across the street. On the way, three employees at the Brigham and Women's asked for my card! One commented, "Why does the BIDMC and MGH have a harpist but not us?" I could not have been received with more welcome and warmth than by the nurses on the 12th floor and everyone else in my path. And what more wonderful example of hospital cooperation than what happened yesterday!

There are so many other stories I could share. A day does not go by that someone doesn't ask me to teach the harp. At least five of your staff - including a physician - have seriously asked me to do so! And even the Starbucks manager is begging me to play in the mornings when her lines are out the door! Since I have already been asked to provide harp music by chaplains to play for a dying patient and by the nurses in Farr 9 and the psychiatric unit, I am envisioning a time when your harpist is available to respond to such requests. I have retired from teaching to make myself available on a volunteer basis to do just that because I believe that this service is a vital and compassionate role to be filled. Paul, that I could do so to serve your community is my ultimate dream!



Anonymous said...

This is truly wonderful. A fine example of a hospital with enough vision to expand the way it treats both patients and visitors. Efforts like this will result, I believe, in better patient outcomes as hospitals realize the very real value of treating the whole patient.

Anonymous said...

That really is amazing. I could see the music as a source of comfort to the young and old. I would have to imagine that there could be many real effects in terms of stress reduction for your staff and patients!

Anonymous said...

I plod through the hospital on my way to cancer check-ups, or to visit a hospitalized loved one. The first note of the harp -- not my favorite instrument, incidentally -- makes me look up and lifts my spirits. It is a sign of

Anonymous said...

I am delighted that Nancy's beautiful music is so highly regarded by our patients. The days that I encounter Nancy on my way in for my shift, I absolutely feel stress reduction! I always look forward to her bright smile and kind words. I think the music program is a great success!

Anonymous said...

I work at Cedars-Sinai and we have a program through volunteer services called, “Music for Healing”, where volunteers, including two harpist perform for our patients. It's a fantastic program and something every hospital should consider implementing.