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Nurses have long utilized a wide variety of creative gifts in treating patients, and our latest Nurse of the Week shares her vocal gifts in the act of caring for those in dire need of good cheer: hospice patients.

Over the past 10 years, RN Kathleen Sarnes, a hospice nurse with the Visiting Nurse Service of New York has charmed countless patients with her tuneful renditions of popular songs, from John Denver to Elvis. Her philosophy: “Nursing isn’t just giving medications… You’re catering to a person’s mind, body, and spirit.”

In part as a result of her own experience with anxiety, Kathleen has found that music does indeed act as a balm to troubled minds—and bodies. This is particularly notable in a hospice setting, where patients are frequently under a great deal of stress as they struggle with their physical burdens. As Kathleen comments on her LinkedIn page, “I hope in the future, the word hospice will not immediately make people think of death but, instead, be associated so much more with thoughts of the quality of life we give to so many…”

Music “hath charms to sooth a savage breast,” as poet William Congreve put it, and it is hard to underestimate the importance of soothing in human caring. “Physiologically, music can be very helpful in lowering the heart rate, (and) lowering blood pressure,” Sarnes told Carson Daly on the Today show. “It helps to build rapport with people, and if you have that rapport, they’re going to be more likely to adhere to the plan of care that you give them.”

And what sort of music “hath charms” for Kathleen herself? Heavy metal. She muses, “Sometimes it’s not easy to get up in the morning and to get going and to go and see patients and everything. If you’re nervous, you scream out some metal lyrics, you know? Whatever it takes. For them, you want to be a place of peace for them.”

For more on Kathleen Sarnes, visit here.

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