By Karen Long
About 20 nurses at South Nassau Communities Hospital in Oceanside, N.Y., have dedicated themselves to improving the hospital not only with their nursing skills but also with their voices.
The Nightingales a cappella group of singing nurses, named for nursing pioneer Florence Nightingale as well as the songbird, began in 2009 to show that the nurses’ comforting nature and compassion extend beyond the bedside, said Laurel Book, BSN, RN, CBC, quality management coordinator in the hospital’s family medicine center and one of the group’s original members.
A couple of years later, the group brought in Paula Larocchia, RN, IBCLC, a lactation resource center and maternity department nurse, as a leader after Book hounded her for weeks. Larocchia has an extensive background in music, including singing professionally, recording music and earning money in college as a wedding singer. Larocchia gave her advice and helped with harmonies.
That improved The Nightingales’ “level of musicianship,” said member Madeline Cozi-Gottlieb, BSN, MS, FNP-C, RNC-OB, who works in the hospital’s nursing education department.
Performances for staff, patients
The group gives about three major performances a year, including kicking off the hospital’s Nurses Day and National Nurses Week celebration in May, plus times when they sing for patients, for weddings at the hospital and in remembrance of nurses who passed away. When the hospital was working to achieve Magnet status, The Nightingales greeted surveyors with “Over the Rainbow,” said member Helen Caffrey, RN-BC, nurse educator.
The Nightingales choose songs to match occasions, including “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music,” “Can’t Smile Without You” by Barry Manilow and during the facility’s transition to electronic medical records, “Help!” by the Beatles. The group’s rehearsal schedule varies, often ramping up before performances. Sandra Barabaldo, BSN, RN, works 12-hour shifts in the ED then brings her 9-month-old twins to rehearsals. Caffrey, who works the 3-11 p.m. shift, gets up early when they have 8 a.m. practices.
While the group has not required members to audition, it does require that they can carry a tune.
Many of The Nightingales have backgrounds in music but took time away for marriages, kids and careers, Larocchia said. The group gives them the benefit of coming back to singing.
“This is how I can keep music in my life,” Cozi-Gottlieb said.
It also brings calm after stressful days. “It’s like therapy after work,” Barabaldo said.
The members also have the joy of bringing song to people in the hospital. “They have such beautiful voices, and to bring a little happier feeling to the hospital, it’s really awesome,” Larocchia said.
Karen Long is a freelance writer.
WATCH A VIDEO of a Nightingales performance by visiting www.YouTube.com/watch?v=4WkRYQ8ewik.