The WellSpan Spotlight

Bright spots

WellSpan BrightSpot: Nurses play violins to soothe patients in their last days

Who: Janelle Kovacs and Nicole Siegrist, registered nurses on the cardiovascular/intensive care unit at WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital. 

What: Siegrist and Kovacs recently brought their violins into work to play music for two patients who were receiving palliative care at the end of their lives. The nurses are both Palmyra High School graduates, who played in the school orchestra together. Kovacs also played in the Hershey Symphony when she was in high school. 

Janelle first played her violin for a patient when nurses noticed that music calmed the patient, seemingly taking the patient's mind off pain. 

The idea came to her to play her violin for Diane Klopp, when Diane asked for music, requesting church hymns, Christmas music, and fiddle tunes when she was in the hospital. Diane enjoyed the violin music so much that she requested it several times, including a night Kovacs was off. 

Fortunately, Siegrist was working that night. She called her father, Jeff Siegrist, a project manager in facilities at Good Sam, and asked him to bring her violin to the hospital so she also could play for Diane. 

The two nurses made sure their other patients were cared for first, and that they were available by phone if they were needed before they closed the door to the patient's room, got out their instruments, and played for a rapt audience of one. 

Words to live by: "I liked doing it because I can. It's something special I can do for a patient," Janelle said. "I have seen other nurses on our unit go above and beyond for their patients. This is a way I can do it too." 

"(Diane) was very sweet and I knew she liked violin music," Nicole said. "I was happy to do it for her." 

Janelle added, "She said, 'When I get to heaven, I hope I can play the fiddle like you do.' " 

Diane died Jan. 13 from lung cancer at Good Sam. She was 74 years old. 

Her son, Jim, said his mother was a hardworking, determined single mom of three, who frequently played music – he remembers listening to singer Jim Croce and other '70s musicians – when he and his sisters were growing up. He is grateful that the nurses were able to bring music to her at the end of her life. 

"I think it was an extremely thoughtful thing to do," Jim said. "Mom always had a massive appreciation for the small things in life. For them to have done that for her was like giving her one last adventure. She was glowing with joy when she told me how awesome it was. It meant so much to her, and to us, that they would go above and beyond to do that for her in the last days of her life. We are eternally grateful."