Dignity Health creates 'heartbeat symphony' to celebrate humanity's bond

March 15, 2015

System and hospitals participate in weeklong 'kindness challenge'


As part of its ongoing "Hello humankindness" campaign, San Francisco-based Dignity Health and many of its hospitals joined the weeklong "Great Kindness Challenge" from the nonprofit organization Kids for Peace, asking hospital associates and community members to show thoughtfulness to others. The health system also created a "heartbeat symphony" incorporating the rhythms of associates' hearts to celebrate humanity's common bond.

Violinists Liz Bacher, left, and Bethany Mennemeyer record the heartbeat symphony in Los Angeles in January. San Francisco-based Dignity Health helped coordinate the project. Dignity Health employees' heartbeats were translated into musical notes for the symphony.

Dignity Health and its participating hospitals asked employees and physicians to engage in acts of kindness during the week of Jan. 26, including collecting food for food banks, spending extra time comforting a patient or expressing appreciation to a colleague, for instance. The hospitals also challenged schools in their community to accept The Great Kindness Challenge — they asked students to complete 50 acts of kindness in one week. The hospitals provided schools with a list of kind act ideas from Kids for Peace, such as slipping a nice note to a friend, picking up trash outside the school, giving an apple to a teacher, bringing a flower to a member of the office staff or hugging a friend.

Dignity Health's Saint Francis Memorial Hospital and St. Mary's Medical Center, both in San Francisco, were among the participating hospitals. Both sites distributed kindness checklists of ideas to staff, physicians and volunteers. At Saint Francis Memorial, employees ran a "generosity cart," bartering water bottles, pens, duffle bags, mugs and other items in exchange for employees performing acts of kindness — some held the elevator for others, some baked cookies for co-workers, some made it a point to say "good morning" to others. At the same facility, employees posted acts of kindness they'd performed or observed on a "kindness wall." Among the reported acts: an employee purchased over 200 pairs of shoes for donation to patients and another bought breakfast in the cafeteria for a visitor struggling to afford the food.

Another Dignity Health hospital, St. Mary Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif., encouraged several Long Beach-area elementary schools to take part in the kindness challenge. Some students donated books to the Long Beach Public Library, some gave clothing to the Long Beach Rescue Mission, some wrote letters to military members and others bought new socks to be donated to homeless people in Long Beach.

In the Dignity Health Sacramento, Calif., region, Trisha Pena, director of finance for Dignity Health's Mercy Foundation, worked with her child's school to engage in the challenge. The school held an assembly to kick off the week, with children wearing "crazy hats and hair" to show they were "crazy for kindness."

In conjunction with the kindness challenge, Dignity Health released a "heartbeat symphony" it had created with professional composer Miles Kennedy. More than 200 Dignity Health nurses, physicians and employees at two Dignity Health hospitals used webcam and smartphone technology to digitally record their heartbeats. The process uses facial-reading technology to sense changes in blood flow in the skin to approximate a heartbeat. Kennedy translated the 200-plus heartbeats provided by the Dignity Health associates into notes that were played by musicians in a 24-piece symphony. People can visit heartbeatsymphony.org to hear and view the performance, and to add their own heartbeats to the piece, using a webcam or smartphone.

Dignity Health's activity is part of its humankindness campaign launched in mid-2013 to encourage people to treat one another kindly and to underscore the importance of kindness in health care. Dignity Health launched a corresponding ad campaign and continues to maintain a website reporting acts of kindness at Dignity Health and worldwide. That website is at hellohumankindness.org.

Dignity Health President and Chief Executive Lloyd Dean said activities like the kindness challenge are "one of the most powerful forces in creating a culture of kindness, beginning with our nation's young people. When one act is completed, it creates a ripple of kindness that effectively has no end."


Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States
For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3477.

Copyright © 2015 by the Catholic Health Association of the United States

For reprint permission, contact Betty Crosby or call (314) 253-3490.