“Singing nurse” calms patients, spreads cheer at West Valley Medical Center

Male nurse singing to patient in hospital bed

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And nothing makes nurse Tommy Rushton happier than to spread holiday cheer by singing to his patients at West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell, Idaho.

Rushton, dubbed the “singing nurse” by his colleagues, started his career in hospice care before transitioning to perioperative nursing (i.e. pre- and post-op surgery) at the HCA Healthcare affiliate.

Male nurse laughing

“I’ve always really liked music,” the 10-year veteran nurse said, “and, in nursing school we had this class that talked about the benefits of music on mental and physical health. At the time, I worked as a certified nursing assistant in an Alzheimer’s unit and thought I’d test it out.”

Rushton started singing to his patients and they loved it, he said. “It was cool to see these patients who, sometimes couldn’t remember their names, recall lyrics to some of the songs we would sing,” he added. “It was a neat practice so I stuck with it and have been singing to my patients ever since.”

A board-certified music therapist at an HCA Healthcare-HealthONE affiliate hospital in Denver has said that music opens up conversations about milestone moments in a patient’s life – a wedding, a birth of a child, a vacation – and is why it works so well as a comfort and healing agent.

The West Valley singing nurse says that he even receives requests from some of his fellow nurses from time to time. “They will say, ‘hey, my patient is super anxious,’ so I’ll go in and sing for their patients as well,” Rushton said. “A lot of the time it works and helps to lighten the mood, making their experience more fun than stressful.”

Rushton typically belts out songs that he already knows – and he always asks before doing so – but will go out of his way to learn a new tune if a patient or family member has a request.

His fellow caregivers may want him to add a few more songs to his vocal repertoire. “I sing the same ones over and over again,” Rushton laughs.

Some of his favorites are:

  • “Evermore” from Beauty and the Beast
  • “Remember Me” from Coco
  • “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from the Wizard of Oz
  • “A Million Dreams” from The Greatest Showman
  • “Hey Jude” by the Beatles

However, there will be no shortage of song choice this holiday season. “I love this time of year,” he said. “I know a bunch of Christmas carols, so it makes it much better for everyone.”

West Valley Medical Center Anesthesiologist Jason Jenkins credits Rushton for his singing chops and for investing in the overall patient experience.

“Giving quality care is something we all expect and strive to deliver,” Jenkins said. “What this unlocks is the difference between good care and great care. It touches that extra human element that it is often too easy to forget.”

Kathy Salfingere, a patient who recently underwent surgery at West Valley Medical Center, experienced the signing nurse’s pre-operation “medicine” and told the local ABC affiliate that she feels like Rushton was “just part of the surgery now.”

“He has to be there like the surgeon,” she said.

Visit here to see another local story about our singing nurse, Tommy Rushton.

West Valley Medical Center is a member of HCA Healthcare’s Mountain Division

HCA Healthcare 50th Anniversary
In 1968, HCA Healthcare was conceived by two physicians and an accomplished business leader — Dr. Thomas Frist Sr., Dr. Thomas Frist Jr., and Jack Massey. This year, HCA Healthcare celebrates its golden anniversary and the culture of caring established by our three founders 50 years ago. To help us celebrate our 50th year, we’ll share stories here that reflect HCA Healthcare’s mission – above all else, the care and improvement of human life – and our pledge to improve life and make history for the next 50 years and beyond.

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