A video of a beautiful moment when Nurse Olivia Neufelder sang to her dying patient went viral over the past few days with 4.5 million views on the original Facebook page alone. The story was also picked up by news media and reported on widely across the world. Why did this video touch the world so much?
The patient, Margaret Smith, had just been informed that she was too ill to receive a liver transplant. With genuine compassion and caring, meeting the spiritual needs of her patient in the moment, Nurse Olivia sang the patient’s favorite song “Dancing in the Sky” by Dani and Lizzy. She held Margaret’s hand and encouraged her to sing along with a smile.
The singing was captured on video by family friend Crystal Hamilton Roberts and shared by Margaret’s daughter, Megan, on her Facebook page with the message: “This nurse sat with my mom for hours …… and sang a very special song to my sweet mother to comfort her. You never left her side by choice!! Words cannot describe the appreciation and love we feel for nurse Olivia who mom calls her angel! Your dedication to your patients is beyond any that I have seen, you truly are a beam of light and I cannot thank you enough for the compassion and care and love you shared for my mother. God bless you Olivia!”
“Miss Marg has touched my heart in such an indescribable way. I am so humbled and honored to be a Nurse. My thoughts and prayers are forever with this amazing family,” Nurse Olivia wrote on Facebook.
“There was almost a sense of peace knowing that it was her favorite song and she did tell me it’s the song she wants played at her funeral,” Olivia told NewsChannel 5. “She didn’t feel like a patient at that time. I wanted her to know that she was loved even if her family wasn’t able to be there.”
“I recently lost my grandmother and went through a similar experience and I was singing to her as she passed too. Margaret really has helped me more than she knows,” Nurse Olivia added.
Why did this video grab so much attention?
“In my opinion, the emotion-eliciting potential of the video probably resides in the current sentimentality of the public. It is no different to people watching a movie on homeless children, crying their eyes out, and when leaving the cinema they just ignore these children or see them as a nuisance,” said Dirk van der Wal, a nurse who completed a doctorate on the topic of professional nurse caring. “The reaction tells of society’s deeply felt guilt for the absence of compassion in society – their personal lack of compassion as well as their own need for it. Look at yourself and ask – Why am I so moved?”
Van der Wal further went on to question how many of the deeply stirred viewers spent a moment of thought to the less appealing realities of nursing behind this clean and neat scene, and how many of them would react in the same way and be willing to contribute personally if a similar situation played out in a poverty-ridden, dirty shack.
What does the viral spin-off of this video mean for nurses and nursing?
Unfortunately, the video viewed and shared by millions of members of the public, and particularly the subsequent news reports, perpetuate the romanticised image of nursing – an image which diminishes public recognition of nurses as highly trained professional practitioners. The view the public holds is known to affect factors such as student recruitment and retention, as well as policy decisions about funding of nurse’s salaries and nursing education, extended practice roles of nurses and more.
A meaningful takeaway for all nurses, however, is that the viral nature of the video shows humanity’s deep-seated need for compassion and caring. While this has always been the essence of nursing and what really makes a difference to our patients, it so easily becomes blurred in the high-tech world we live in. While nurses will most often not have the same sort of time to spend with patients as Nurse Olivia did, a sincere, kind word, a smile, a touch means more to our patients than we can imagine.
Margaret is survived by a daughter and a son in their early 20s. A gofunddme account has been set up to help with expenses. You can donate here.