The oncology patients at Magee-Women’s Hospital at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center are sometimes faced with painful procedures and medial issues, so the staff tries to put smiles on their faces by singing.
It’s three words you never want to hear, “you have cancer.”
For patient Elizabeth Bradwell, the news was hard but the process has been even harder.
"Everybody there is part of my care," Bradwell said. "What I've said to them is no matter what position they occupy I couldn't do it without you."
'I really could not do this without the team'
On June 7th, Bradwell was able to leave the hospital on a high note thanks to Cynthia Shaffer.
Shaffer has been a nurse in the inpatient oncology unit at the hospital for over 18 years and created a music therapy program.
According to Shaffer, the music therapy program "makes everybody feel so good."
Shaffer said the idea to sing first came to her when she was taking care of an ovarian cancer patient who was struggling with depression.
The patient's daughters could not believe how much she came to life after Shaffer sang her just one song.
Shaffer shared her experience singing with the other nurses and staff members and her idea took hold.
Before she knew it, staff members were buying microphones and fun outfits to dress up in while singing to patients.
Not only are the patients rewarded but the staff as well.
"After we’re done singing we decompress for a couple of minutes and it just relieves our stress" Shaffer told GMA.
When a patient is able to leave the hospital they get to ring a bell and the staff sings 'Hit the Road Jack' to the patient.
Bradwell said hitting the bell is "a joyous celebration for the staff because sometimes people don't make it through chemo.
“They like to hear that bell too because they know it's another success story for them."
Thinking back to the patient that started it all, Shaffer said, "there is a rewarding satisfaction that everyone gets out of it."
About 10 years after the nurses started singing to patients, Shaffer gave a presentation in Washington D.C. at the Oncology Nursing Society Congress and she hopes to spread her program to other cities.