Shawn Brady, a program director at Providence Healthcare, showed his appreciation for co-workers with a song he wrote and performed. Photo courtesy Providence Healthcare

Song of thanks strikes the right chord

By 
  • June 25, 2020

Shawn Brady sees the heroes every day he walks into Providence Healthcare in Toronto’s east end, and has for years.

But he’s got a new appreciation of just how heroic these people are since COVID-19 struck, particularly at long-term care facilities where the toll has been highest.

While Providence has had some COVID-19 cases, they’ve been kept to a minimum compared to similar facilities, particularly in other parts of Ontario and Quebec where the virus has hit hardest. Keeping these numbers in check takes hard work and dedication by the frontline workers who staff the hospital and adjacent Houses of Providence.

Brady, senior clinical program director of rehabilitation and palliative care at Providence, has shown his appreciation for his colleagues in song. A professional musician when not in his clinical role, Brady has released “Sideways 2020” as a means to thank them for coming together to look after the patients and their families.

Brady originally penned and recorded a version of the song in 2011 at a time a number of environmental events like earthquakes had struck around the world and people had come together in support of each other. The parallels with what we are experiencing with COVID-19 struck him, so Brady “kind of dusted it off and updated the lyrics and re-recorded it.”

It’s an uplifting song in a time of uncertainty and when we are so close yet so far from each other. It was written “with a flicker of hope that if we walk together, stick together, we can overcome this,” he said.

Providence Healthcare jumped on board and with Brady created a video to accompany “Sideways 2020” which is being used to highlight the care residents receive.The video is also being used in a Providence Healthcare Foundation fundraising campaign.

“As I rewrote it I reflected on my job here at the hospital and Providence Healthcare and thought I would work with members here to create an inspirational video that can tell what this would look like in a health care setting and the things we’re doing to support our patients and residents,” said Brady.

What it does is truly show that all people at Providence, staff and residents, are in this together. It really is “sort of a mutual relationship,” said Brady, one where staff get their energy to do what they do from the people they work with, all of whom have their own interesting life stories.

It’s been noticed at Providence. Jacqueline Janelle, director of strategy and operations with Providence Healthcare Foundation, calls Brady an inspiration as a health worker and a musician.

“Every day as a health care leader, he works to make sure we give our best to the people in our care,” said Janelle. “As a songwriter, he knows what our residents are going through and that comes across in his music. ‘Sideways 2020’ reveals a deep understanding of what our residents are feeling at this time. It’s also full of compassion and hope.”

Brady gives much of the credit to how Unity Health Toronto — which Providence is a part of along with St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Centre — works, along with its leadership team.

“Part of the vision of Unity Health Toronto is really creating the best experiences together and together includes all the people we serve,” he said. “Residents. Family members. Our communities. I think this video really captures that we’re in it together.”

Much of this can be attributed to the legacy of the Sisters of St. Joseph, the founders of Providence Healthcare who have been at the forefront of health care in Toronto since the 1800s. The sisters had a foundation of “servant leadership,” something Brady sees continuing into 2020.

“That servant leadership approach really sets a strong foundation for us to be together, to work together, to support our residents and their families through these challenging times.”

Janelle agrees and sees it in how staff have gone above and beyond.

“The values of Providence Healthcare have come to the fore in this difficult time,” she said. “The work is demanding, difficult and not without risk. Providence staff have stepped up, they’ve been there to support our residents and to make sure they know they are safe and loved.”

“Sideways 2020” can be downloaded on iTunes or Spotify.

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