Maryland Journal

Singing the praises of medicine

VA hospital nurse writes, records song honoring her vocation

December 24, 2007|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,sun reporter

If there's a holiday party for patients at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Perry Point, Dee Jones makes sure there is song.

And for the past few months, Jones, a nurse and care coordinator at the hospital, has added a tribute to her repertoire: "The Nurses' Anthem," which she wrote to honor all who share her dedication to the profession.

The Havre de Grace resident has been singing for crowds since she was 7 and nursing at the 400-bed military hospital on the banks of the Susquehanna River for the past 10 years. Many patients require long-term care, and the hospital is their home.

During her lunch hour on a recent day, the petite woman with the soulful voice and a ready smile rushed into a community room filled with patients, their family members and many nurses.

"I came to offer you my music and am hoping you will sing along with me," Jones said before launching into a medley of traditional carols.

"This is a difficult time of year for patients, especially those with no families," she said. "My goal is to lift their spirits."

For the finale, Jones performed "The Nurses' Anthem," which she wrote and recently recorded more specifically as a tribute to Florence Nightingale, the pioneer of modern nursing, and all who followed her into nursing.

"I thought it would be neat if Florence Nightingale had her own song and I just got to work on that," Jones said.

Jones wrote the lyrics, and musical arranger Brian Gibbs "put my melody to the words." The song was published in May and sold out through Jones' Web site in the first week.

The lyrics of the song begin:

She gave her soul and lived her life as a living sacrifice.

So, I pledge here and now to use my gifts to saving lives.

Give me strength this very hour with the words I sing right now.

Jones sang the anthem at graduation for the nursing students she taught at Harford Community College. She is looking for financial backing to help send copies of the recording to troops overseas.

"I know medical personnel need encouragement," she said. "This song honors Florence Nightingale's life. I hope it's a song to encourage new nurses and keep others in nursing."

At the hospital holiday party, she passed out sheets with the song's lyrics and offered to teach the chorus to the patients "so you can sing it to your nurses," she said.

Jones' passions - nursing and singing -complements each other, she said, and music has become a valuable therapeutic tool at the hospital.

"If you can't help patients physically, there is still something you can do," she said. "I make room in my schedule to sing for them. I may be the only sound they hear.

"I go from room to room singing, and the patients are so appreciative. They thank me for coming. Singing is healing for me. It is an extension of my spirit."

Belting out a song is the ultimate stress reliever for her, as well, whether in a traffic jam, fretting about workplace demands, or alone at home.

"Singing forces you to deep-breathe and to relax," she said. "I sing everywhere, and it's truly medicine. One of my purposes for being on this Earth is sharing my spirit with others."

Though she has ample performing experience, Jones admits to occasional butterflies before a show.

She has performed on TV and radio, at the Pentagon, the Washington National Cathedral and Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen.

She is touring with the National Christian Choir, which is scheduled to visit Jerusalem in March.

Jones has recorded several CDs and is working on another with her son, Kevyn, a student at Harford Community College, doing the arranging.

Jones grew up in Portsmouth, Va., singing gospel with members of her extended family. She hopes to make a gospel recording with her grandfather, who pulled her into his Anointed Voices of Hope group when she was a child.

"People were always singing around me," she said.

Jones is a self-taught musician who plays the violin and is learning to play a guitar that her husband, Wilbur, recently bought for her.

The couple lived all over the world while he served in the Army. Everywhere they lived, Dee Jones sang in a church choir or started one, if need be.

"If you looked at my life on paper, there is no way these two careers fit together," she said. "I will be nursing and singing for the rest of my life. Even if I tried, I could not separate them, and there's really no need. I can do both."

mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

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