Patricia Saggia-Thomas, RN, BSN, knows the power that music can have on healing. A nurse in the Progressive Care Unit at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, she remembers a patient who she connected with through singing.

“I knew he loved music because he had a hymnal on his bedside table,” she says. “I asked him if we could sing together. He was dying, but every time I started to sing, he would light up and sing along.”

To bring music to more patients, Saggia-Thomas decided to start a choir for the team members at the hospital. She reached out to the Spiritual Wellness department at AdventHealth Shawnee Mission, who were enthusiastic about the idea.

“I’ve been singing all of my life, helping out with the choir at our church,” she says. “It’s something that gives us a feeling of togetherness and improves our well-being. I wanted to find out how we could make singing part of our healing ministry.”

Team members from various departments at the hospital started signing up for the choir late last year. When looking for a director, Saggia-Thomas wanted to find someone with professional experience. She reached out to Anita Cyrier, former director for the Johnson County Chorus, who agreed to volunteer to direct the choir.

In December 2019, the AdventHealth Shawnee Mission choir started singing Christmas carols in the hospital hallways for patients as well as at some patients’ bedsides.

“The patients love it,” says Saggia-Thomas. “You can really tell how music comforts them and has a way of reaching into their hearts. It also fosters our human connection that the person behind those scrubs cares about their whole being.”

In addition to singing on the patient floors, the choir also regularly sings for hospital chapel services as well as other events at the hospital. They were scheduled to sing at Camp Bluebird for cancer survivors, infant loss services, Honor Walks to pay respect to organ donors and other community events.

In recent months, the choir had to postpone singing at the hospital and at events because of recent COVID-19 restrictions. To help ease anxieties while maintaining social distancing, they made a video of a song, “Namaste,” that was shared on the AdventHealth Shawnee Mission Facebook page. Each of the choir members recorded their portion of the song at home. They then sent the videos to Saggia-Thomas so she and her husband could compile them and produce the video.

The song “Namaste” is a respectful greeting of Indian origin that helps serve as a reminder to recognize and appreciate the good in others.

“We may be different, but we are the same when God places His love and kindness within us,” says Saggia-Thomas. “He shines forth in the care we provide and how we treat one another.”

She says the music has not only been therapeutic for patients, but team members as well. It helps them feel connected with patients as well as each other.

“I think they’ve found that singing is a good outlet,” says Saggia-Thomas. “Whether it’s before or after a shift, it helps them relax. It’s also a good way for us to connect and learn more about our fellow team members throughout the hospital.”

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Ann Muder is a freelance writer and editor for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission.