Jackson healthcare workers write songs to help address stress and burnout from the pandemic
Hilary Camino is a Neurologic Music Therapist with St. Johns Health in Jackson. She recently led songwriting workshops with healthcare workers addressing work-related stress and burnout due to the pandemic. Camino spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Grady Kirkpatrick about the project.
Grady Kirkpatrick: Hilary, what initiated the idea for this songwriting project?
Hilary Camino: Well, part of my job as a music therapist at our local hospital here in Jackson, St. John's Health, is to look at our demographic and populations in the hospital to see where the highest need is. And I started to notice during the pandemic, and toward the end, that our staff was really suffering, and I wanted to do a project that could help with burnout. And we've had high turnover rates, just like other hospitals throughout the country. And I know that connection is one of the ways that we can decrease burnout. So I developed this program, to use therapeutic songwriting with our healthcare staff to engage in a creative activity where they can connect not only to each other, to their other co-workers, but also to themselves and kind of tap into that creative process.
GK: What were some of the topics covered in the lyrics?
HC: Well, we did a lot of writing prompts…free association writing, where it's just kind of like a brain dump, and I let that happen naturally. I didn't want to reflect too deeply on the past into the pandemic, but check in and see where people are at now. And so a lot of the content and the lyrics are about where they are in their work life and kind of touches on why we work in healthcare. Why do we keep coming back day after day? And that was kind of a similarity that I saw with each group and their why, which was and it is the title of this EP, “A Golden Thread.” These golden thread moments where they get to connect with their patients and get to know them on a deeper level that impacts their life and their patients’ lives and makes them want to come back to their work every day.
GK: Where were the songs recorded?
HC: We recorded them with Aaron Davis at Three Hearted Recording Studio in Hoback.
GK: Hillary, who were the people you collaborated with on writing the songs?
HC: So we had a lot of different healthcare staff involved in the project. So these were people from the HR department, also nurses, CNAs, more of our clinical staff. So on “Golden Thread,” we had Beth Stromberg, who is the vocalist on this song, also in HR; Anne Marie Letko on guitar and backing vocals, who is a massage therapist at the hospital; and Julie Cooper, who is an RN, she did backing vocals on this. We also hired musicians to fill in the cracks. So Chris Smith on the drums, and it features local musician Joe Rudd on the keys. And on “Horizon Line,” we had BJ Olson, who is a CNA, playing the drums; Tom Kenny, who is also in HR, on the bass; and local musician, Michael Batdorf, on the mandolin. I'm singing vocals and rhythm guitar. And we have Joe Waller, who's a senior accountant at the hospital, playing lead guitar. And then one of my favorite bass players, Marty Camino, my husband, we hired him to fill in on this one and Tom Guacaya is also a local musician on the drums.
GK: We'll hear another song. Tell us about “Horizon Line.”
HC: “Horizon Line” really honed into…we talked about object writing, and that's where you focus on an object to inspire your writing. And this group chose the hallways in the hospital as the object and wrote on that and the many feelings derived from walking those hallways day in and day out.
GK: Healthcare workers around the country and right here in Wyoming, were on the front lines during the worst of the pandemic. It was a crisis that a lot of people just were not prepared for, but had to deal with the reality of what was happening. In many cases, it was a matter of life and death, and certainly physically and emotionally draining work. To what extent do you think this project has really helped inspire and rejuvenate our healthcare workers?
HC: I think it has given them time, time to reflect on the incredible amount of stress that they were under for a really long time. They were able to power through the initial parts of the pandemic with adrenaline and the sheer will to step up in the face of adversity. But that kind of energy can only last for so long. So this gave them time to reflect and check in on what their needs are, and what's important in their lives. Which is creating and being a part of something that inspires them.
GK: Tell us about “Knights in Blue.”
HC: Knights in Blue you'll hear a young voice and this one, this was kind of a special fun circumstance. One of our nurses really wanted his daughter to be involved in the process and so you'll hear 12-year-old Betsy Chetanmen singing on this and this is written from the perspective of a patient and so I hope you enjoy it.
GK: How can people find the songs and more information about this?
HC: You can find these songs wherever you listen to music, Spotify, Apple Music, and just look up “Golden Thread”, or Hillary Camino and you'll find it.
Knights in Blue Lyrics
Holiday in Outer Space Lyrics
Horizon Line Lyrics
Golden Thread Lyrics