RPA’s choir program is more than just a gathering of like-minded musicos, it’s about improving wellbeing, building community, and making connections with colleagues.
When Dr Isabel Hanson and music director Liz Lecoanet approached Royal Prince Alfred Hospital’s Executive to pitch their idea for a hospital choir, they presented research about why choirs are beneficial. And then they got them to sing.
“We asked everyone in the Executive to close their eyes, to breathe together and then we did a vocal warm up that led into singing “Hey Jude” by The Beatles,” says Dr Hanson, who explains that the best way to convince people of the benefits of singing is to get them to experience it for themselves.
“You don’t need to be a good singer to reap the benefits,” she says. “It’s the act of community, breath work, and deep listening that makes you feel quite elevated and refreshed.”
The RPAH Choir gathers together once a week from 5.45pm to 6.45pm in the Resident Medical Officers’ Association common room to sing a variety of melodies, including pop songs, rock ballads, musical theatre, and African tribal songs. Participants are also encouraged to bring in requests.
The choir has about 70 members and operates on a drop-in basis. There are no auditions to join and people aren’t required to make a specific commitment.
The choir is part of RPA’s MDOK program, which offers a full suite of workshops, events and activities to support the health and wellbeing of medical professionals.
Dr Hanson and Ms Lecoanet felt the choir would be a good way to bring people from across the hospital together and reduce stress.
“Singing is one of the great social connectors,” Dr Hanson says. “It exists in most tribal societies and major religions for a reason. It is the combination of being physically in a room with other people, breathing together, and expressing sound while listening to those around you that builds a sense of community and belonging.”
While the group does perform, the main goal is to create an all-staff choir that bridges relationships across the hospital. So far – it’s working.
“We recently did an assessment on the wellbeing benefits and we found that 100% of people had met someone new that they previously hadn’t interacted with before in the hospital. But what was really exciting was 75% of participants had been interacting with [a choir member] in their workday job and found some aspect of their work easier because they now knew that person from choir.”
Based on the choir’s success at RPA, there are plans to roll out similar programs at other hospitals within the Sydney Local Health District.