July 24, 2012

"Keys of Compassion" welcomes visitors to Maury Regional


COLUMBIA, Tenn. – Shirley Whaley is one of many visitors to Maury Regional Medical Center (MRMC) who have been welcomed by the sounds of a piano as they enter the hospital’s main lobby. The Lewisburg resident was visiting her husband in late April when she noticed the baby grand piano in a corner of the lobby.

Ever the proper lady, Mrs. Whaley sought and was given permission to try out the new piano. The computer-programmed player piano was switched to manual and soon her renditions of “Jesus Loves Me” and “The Old Rugged Cross” were soothing the spirits of listeners in the lobby and the nearby hallway. Despite very little formal training Mrs. Whaley has become an accomplished pianist over the years, performing at community events and serving for many years as the pianist at Farmington Methodist Church in Marshall County.

“I took piano lessons until I was in third grade, but my teacher told my mother that she was wasting her money because I wasn’t doing what she asked,” Mrs. Whaley said. “I play strictly by ear. If I hear something a time or two, I can usually play it. God just seems to have blessed me with this gift.”

MRMC Volunteer Services Assistant Director Sarah Barry was among those who witnessed Mrs. Whaley’s performance.

“Watching the reaction from people, how they were drawn to the music and how they seemed to just relax a little was a real confirmation that we were on the right track by getting the piano. Whether you are a patient or someone visiting a loved one, when circumstances force a hospital visit, you can’t help but feel a certain amount of uneasiness and music will often help minimize that anxiety,” said Barry.

Maury Regional staff members, physicians, volunteers and other community members raised the funds to purchase the instrument through their “Keys of Compassion” drive. Within a few months, $10,000 was raised and by June the drive was completed thanks to a $2,000 donation from MRMC’s Auxiliary.

“Our contributors really got behind this project very quickly. I think that’s because they saw the potential and understood the importance of providing an environment where patients, families and themselves, could collect themselves, reenergize and tackle the next challenge in their day’s events,” said Jason Mallory, a clinical dietitian with Maury Regional who co-chaired the campaign. “Or, maybe they needed a smile. Music does all of this.”

What some refer to as music therapy is not new to the hospital. MRMC’s volunteer musicians program began in 2001 when Williamsport resident Rick Mullen, a former professional touring musician, brought his guitar and began playing light classical, pop and folk instrumental music for patients and staff. Eventually other talented musicians followed his lead and signed up to share their talents.

“It’s just one of the things we are doing to make the hospital visit a little more pleasant, a little less stressful for loved ones as well as patients,” said Mallory.

The inclusion of music is one component of the patient-centered care/Planetree philosophy adopted by Maury Regional 18 months ago. Planetree is a non-profit organization founded by a patient in 1978. Planetree provides education and information to health care organizations that share a goal of humanizing and demystifying the health care experience for patients and their families. The Planetree Model is committed to enhancing health care from the patient’s perspective and is now a worldwide movement.

Since MRMC adopted the Planetree philosophy, more than half of its 2,000+ employees and volunteers have participated in Planetree retreats. All staff members, not just medical personnel, are required to attend at least one retreat. Participants have the opportunity to learn about the Planetree philosophy and its role in Maury Regional’s pursuit of patient-centered care and are encouraged to offer their own ideas on how to make patients and visitors feel more like part of a healing environment rather than another room number in a hospital. Planetree Coordinator Joan Stephens anticipates 85 percent of the current staff will have participated in the retreats by June 2013.