Caroling on the Wards

Ben Li
December 12, 2016

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“Noeeell, Nooelll, NoeeelllllLLLL! Born is the King of Israel!” These are some of my favorite words to sing each year with the Radial Grooves. The Radial Grooves, which is our on-campus medical, nursing, and audiology student a cappella group, spends a few weeks each year preparing Christmas songs for the holiday season. Our number one performance is when we visit the Vanderbilt hospital to sing for patients.

“Siiiiilent Night…” the atmosphere peacefully obeys and all grows quiet. We start by singing in waiting rooms, large hallways, and atriums. Our group comes donned in Santa hats and colorful garb, as well as some shout outs for Hanukah. It is hard to describe, but once we start singing, it overrides all other concerns or work schedules we may have had entering the night. It is a special night for caroling.

“And heaven and nature sing!” Next we move on to visiting patients, one room at a time. We sing as many songs as the patients like us to sing, because during that time, the patient is the center of our focus. (We also make sure to foam in and foam out!). Often family members are present. Or the patient makes a phone call to a loved one and puts us on speaker phone. Patients take pictures and videos to capture the moment. Later, as they lie quietly in their rooms deep into the night, they can re-experience our presence so they are not alone with illness.

Music is emotion; it is happiness and joy, it is hope and sorrow. It is a way to connect through experience and to express love. In cold, dark conditions, it provides warmth. It reaches patients, particularly those who feel scared and alone, and reminds them that the outside world cares about them too. For some, music is healing. And for me, music is medicine.

Our night of caroling is a reminder to all – patients, staff, nurses, residents, and students – that we are more than just walking name badges. We are all people, and we care about each other.