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Nurse helps to heal with harmony

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Patricia A. Harrison

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Monday, April 8, 2019

Patricia Harrison, a certified nurse at Nash UNC Health Care, loves to spread comfort and joy to her patients by sharing the gift of music.

“I like to sing and bring a little joy to patients,” Harrison said. “In nursing I have found that singing sometimes helps the patients. If a person is very agitated — if they have already gotten their medicine and they still can’t seem to rest — I find that humming a little song or singing to them can help them calm down.”

Harrison has more than 31 years experience as a certified nursing assistant. For 22 of those years, she has worked at Nash General Hospital and has seen the hospital grow and experience changes over the years. But for her, the main focus is the different patients that she sees each day.

“I am a people person and I love meeting so many people here at Nash Health Care. I love my peers and I love my patients.  I pray that nobody will have to come to the hospital, because I wouldn’t would want to be a sick person. Nobody wants to be a sick person. But if can can help make their day, I will. I let them know I am here for them and if they need me I will come a-running,” Harrison said with a chuckle.

She began working at Nash General Hospital in 1997 and soon gained a reputation for the way she calmed and comforted patients with her songs.

“When I first started working here on the 3 p.m.  to 11 p.m. shifts on the neurology wing, I worked with a lot of stroke patients. Sometimes the nurses would come and find me and ask me to sing to patients that just needed to be able to rest,” Harrison said.

Harrison said she has never had anyone send her away.

“Sometimes the patients will hear me singing in another room and they will ask me to come sing to them,” she said. “

Harrison said she sings different songs, but most of them are the spiritual songs that she knows best.

“I sing songs like ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘How Great Thou Art.’ The songs I sing are soft, melodic songs that can help calm the patients,” Harrison said.

As an elder in her church, she feels that these songs have value.

Though she has never had any formal training, Harrison said she learned to sing at her mother’s knee, 

“I come from a large family of nine girls and five boys. I am the fourth child and the third daughter. Years ago my mother used to sing in the home and I learned from her. It seemed like singing would calm me down. As time went on, it was birthed in my spirit that any time I get anxious, I would just start humming and singing. As I studied the Word of God, I saw how the Lord would use songs sometimes to calm down the enemies. Later, I saw that same calming effect on patients who were restless.”

Harrison works mainly on the fourth floor, but she sometimes works on other floors as needed. She said she has been around long enough that some people remember her from previous visits to the hospital.

“Recently, one patient kept looking at me and he finally told me that his wife was here in 2005 and he remembered me singing to her. And he remembered me doing a little dance in her room,” Harrison said. “He said he would never forget me because my singing relaxed her so much. His first wife had passed and now he is married to another lady and he said he was glad she got to meet the carer his first wife had at that time. ‘Isn’t is ironic that you are taking care of me tonight even though we haven’t seen one another in all those years,’ he said.

She loves to connect with family members, Harrison said.

“I love to serve the patients as well as the family members. They have a loved one laying in the bed and its hard on them. What one goes through the others go through. So if I can make them more comfortable, I want to do that,” she said.

Harrison’s compassion for others does not end when her work at the hospital is done. She and her husband are elders at the Ray of Hope Christian Center in the Whitakers community and she loves to spend her free time ministering in local nursing homes and taking homemade soup to the sick and shut-ins in her community. She is active with Women of Faith and group she calls “The Sisterhood” whose mission is to young girls in the community who are pregnant or need additional support and encouragement.

She also does volunteer work at the Caladonia Prison in Tillery, She helps hold meetings there and also plans birthday parties for prisoners. She is even on the prison council.

With a husband and four grown children, her life is blessed, she said, and she likes to share her blessings with others.

Harrison grew up in Rocky Mount and attended area schools, graduating from Rocky Mount Senior High. She then earned an associate degree at Louisburg College before taking nursing courses at N.C. Central University and qualifying as a certified nursing assistant.

“I would like to be able to get more training one day and do more hands on work with the nurses,” Harrison said. “But for now I try to do what I can to help the nurses and stand in the gap. I love taking care of people and I get to do that in my job.”

She said she is especially grateful to be working at Nash UNC Health Care.

“I do love working here at Nash and I thank God for them having me here,” she said. “It is a beautiful place to work and get to show the love to people and let them know that I am here to serve.”

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