Since ancient times, we’ve used music to entertain, communicate, and infuse rhythm and joy into the tasks of daily life. For nurse Victoria Burns, music helps her in all these ways as she cares for her hospice patients.
Home care nurse Victoria Burns has always been a music lover, but if you ask her what her favorite song is… well, that’s a difficult question.
“I listen to music in between all of my drives,” she said. But when she tried to pick her favorite song, “I could not narrow it down to just one song. It’s kind of like a projection of where you’re at in life.”
That’s why Victoria started asking some of her patients about their favorite songs. Their answers sometimes surprise her – but they also give her more insight into who they are, how they’re feeling, and what matters to them.
“It’s interesting to me to know just where people are at,” she said.
As an Angela Hospice home care nurse, Victoria sees hospice patients in their homes, and often uses music as an icebreaker.
“If I see a guitar laying around, I’ll be like, ‘So what kind of music are you into?’” she said. “I feel like it’s something that we can all connect on.”
It’s a great distraction too, like when a patient needs a procedure that could be uncomfortable. Talking about music helps take their mind off the procedure, and gives them a chance to share a bit about who they are.
“We kind of cross that boundary a little bit of, you know, I’m still your nurse, you’re still a patient, but we’re just people. And we’re just getting through this situation together,” she said. “And I find that’s really helpful in establishing trust with people.”
Victoria used music to connect with patients in her previous job too, working in labor in delivery – offering to get an energetic playlist going for moms who needed that extra boost. But even in that role, where she saw new life coming into the world each day, she felt drawn to her patients who experienced a fetal death.
“I don’t even really know what it was… just these people need help,” she recalled.
And Victoria knew she had it in her to help them.
Now, as a hospice nurse, working with patients at the end of their lives and the families who love them, Victoria sees the similarities between her hospice role and her previous position in labor and delivery. A lot of it is about timing, coping with things that are out of our control, and “sorting it out together,” she said.
“I feel like they’re coming and going from the same place,” she said. And in this place of the in-between, facing uncertainty and things outside of her control, Victoria feels like she’s found her calling.
“This is what I want to do,” she said. “It just speaks to me.”
A Playlist of Songs Shared
One of Victoria’s patients said her favorite song was “The Lady in My Life” by Michael Jackson. She said, “I’m a hopeless romantic.”
Another patient’s family recommended the soundtrack to Once Upon a Time in America by Ennio Morricone.
“I’ve listened to it a couple times at their request, and it’s really good,” Victoria shared. “It kind of takes you somewhere. It’s very…grounding.”
Another of Victoria’s patients told her they really like “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac.
“I said, ‘Oh my gosh, I love that song, too.’ And we talked about it a little bit,” Victoria said. “It’s just so powerful. It’s such a good one. And they said what they really liked about it is it’s about being a woman. And I was like, ‘Yeah, I’m into that too!’”
One of Victoria’s favorite songs is “Once, Twice Melody” by Beach House.
“I enjoy listening to things that do kind of bring me down a little bit from the energy that I’m getting from people all day,” she said. ”So it’s a very mellow song, but it’s about life and perception still, so it still is giving me what I need, but reeling it in a little bit.”
Another song Victoria shared is “Mourning Doves” by Jhene Aiko.
“I just think it’s a fantastic song… It’s kind of about the end of relationships or when things are kind of meant to be, but it’s still a beautiful song.”