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TR Staff Singers
Staff on Toronto Rehab’s Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) inpatient unit belt it out during a daily sing-along. (Photo: UHN)

The halls are alive with the sound of music.

Aiming to boost spirits one song at a time, staff on Toronto Rehab's Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) inpatient unit have introduced socially distant sing-alongs every morning, belting out a favourite or two in a variety of keys and with an abundance of laughter after safety huddle.

Drawing on uplifting favourites, such as "Stand by Me" and "With a Little Help from My Friends," the team prints off lyrics, sets up speakers, and encourages patients to join in from inside their room, or in their doorway.

 "We wanted to find a way to lift our patients' morale during this uncertain and potentially isolating time," says Michelle Di Lauro, an occupational therapist on the unit at University Centre.

The sing-along is just one of many instances in these extraordinary times of staff across UHN adapting and thriving for the benefit of patient care and their fellow TeamUHN members.

"Incredible! The whole @UHN team is doing such great work and your patients appreciate it. ❤️" one patient wrote on Twitter. "We are so grateful for you!" added another.

But the appreciation is coming from more than just patients. Colleagues are also offering shoutouts.

"Grateful for the lab professionals @UHN providing essential services #COVID19," one staff member tweeted. Another lauded collaboration: "really impressed by how flexible teams have been @UHN."

Sing-along benefits have reached far beyond patients

On the ABI unit, patients say the sing-alongs help them feel more connected and offer something to look forward to each day. They also support their rehab, both cognitively and socially, by encouraging them to practice lyrics ahead of time and offer up song requests.

"In my spare time, I run a choir, and I see how important group singing can be – especially during times of uncertainty, says Taylor Strande, a speech-language pathologist on the unit.  

"Choral singing has been shown to decrease stress, improve our sense of togetherness and strengthen overall wellbeing. We wanted to share these benefits on our unit."

tweet from Catherine McDonald on breast cancer team

Benefits, the team agrees, that have reached far beyond patients, to lift staff morale, as well. 

"We share a laugh, dance around, and enjoy some seriously off-tune singing," says Michelle. 

"Overall, our sing-alongs have given everyone a better sense of togetherness," says Taylor. 

"As more and more people participate, we're filling our unit with music. It is quite a sight to behold, and so impactful for all of us."

There are so many other examples of vital work being done in all corners of UHN at this challenging time.

In addition to shoutouts to surgeons, there's been great appreciation for cleaning staff.

"In modern life, few people are called upon for physical courage," one staff member at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre wrote on Twitter. "Yolanda cleans rooms on the inpatient wards @pmcancercentre to keep our patients safe. These days, this is no routine task. This is courage."

Angie, another member of the UHN Environmental Services staff was lauded by a number of medical students and residents, for being, as one resident wrote on Twitter, "one of the loveliest, most uplifting people I know." Another resident tweeted: "She, like many others, works tirelessly behind the scenes to keep our environment clean during these trying times. In her words, 'all you boys & girls are like my children.' #HealthcareHeroes"

While plaudits for healthcare workers on social media from people of walks of life have flooded UHN platforms, other thank yous have been delivered in a more personal way. A member of UHN's Infection Prevention and Control (IPAC) team tweeted, "I was beyond touched" when members of the UHN Soham & Shaila Ajmera Family Transplant Centre "gave me a surprise round of applause at their morning huddle.❤️❤️ I appreciate it more than they know! #teamUHN"

A member of UHN Digital tweeted she was "feeling invigorated" after the first safety huddle of the newly-created Virtual Care Rollout Team. "It's been amazing to see the quick response from different teams across @UHN to come together during this time," she said. "Very proud to support this work."

There was also plenty of praise to go around for a couple of UHN initiatives in the broader community – UHN physicians and University of Toronto medical students; and a social medicine initiative to team up with 211 Ontario and a social service agency – to help vulnerable people during the pandemic.

It's all part of the outpouring of support being offered to healthcare workers.

tweets of United Way and Ro Dalla

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