Masmian Joseph has been a patient attendant for several years. He’s worked at the Montreal General, the Montreal Neurological Institute and, since last year, at the new McGill University Health Centre Glen Campus in the department of Internal Medicine.
“Oh, I love what I do,” he explains. “You have to be a humanitarian to do this job and treat the patients with respect.”
He says that patients can have a hard time being in a hospital because they’re in unfamiliar surroundings. “Can you imagine being in this place for a month? “There’s no music, things get pretty monotonous and people are doing all sorts of tests,” he explains. “People are afraid.”
“Can you imagine being in this place for a month? There’s no music, things get pretty monotonous and people are doing all sorts of tests,” Joseph said. “People are afraid.”
That’s one reason Joseph started volunteering to sing to his patients. He owns a keyboard that he brings from home in a case, on wheels, and goes from room to room to sing and play for patients who are up for it.
“Just the look on their face,” he beams, “is payback enough. And they just can’t stop saying thanks.”
There was one patient at the Montreal General years ago, who, he remembers, was having a particularly hard time and being reclusive, so Joseph tried something a little different with him. One day he invited the patient to lunch in the family room. There was a piano there so Joseph had an idea. He invited the man to sit with him at the piano, and sang to him.
“He cried,” Joseph recalls. “He said: ‘I’ve never been treated like this in my whole, entire life.’ I told him, that’s what we’re here for!”
Tania Teolis, a social worker at the hospital says that music does calm patients. “It can reduce stress, make them relax and forget about the reason they’re here.”
Malcolm Travis, a patient and himself a musician agrees. “I think it can bring life and enjoyment into an environment that can be pretty bleak and scary.”
Joseph says that singing for his patients is a give-and-take and that he benefits from the experience as well.
“I feel happy when I do it, and at the end of the day it’s about getting them to recover,” he stresses. “That’s the whole thing.”