The nurse who serenades her patients

From the Spring 2010 issue of Scrubs

At first sound you might think the graceful notes floating through the air in the Memphis VA Medical Center’s ICU are coming from a patient’s television set. But on closer listen it’s clear: The music is live, courtesy of nurse Lori Sykes, who comes to work every day toting her violin.

Sykes, 35, has been using her musical skills to soothe and heal since she was nine. “My mom worked for a local mental health institute and she would bring us in to play for the patients,” says Sykes, whose siblings are also musicians. “It seemed to lift their spirits.”

Although her musical prowess won her a scholarship to the University of Memphis, Sykes switched gears in college and chose to pursue a career in nursing. Still, she never let her musicianship lapse, despite years of working in the ER before moving to the ICU a year ago. While the chaotic nature of the ER afforded her the chance to play for patients only occasionally, the calm of the ICU is conducive to daily mini-recitals. “I’ll play two or three songs on my violin or I’ll sing, usually hymns or spiritual music or whatever patients or their families request,” says Sykes. “Sometimes there are tears; people seem very appreciative. It seems to help them relax and take their mind of their suffering.” It’s not always easy to tell if the music is getting through, but recently a patient whom Sykes played for when he was on a ventilator later, when he was significantly improved, told her he could indeed hear the violin, even at his worst. “He said it took him to a higher level,” she recalls. We think RNs like Sykes take nursing to a higher level.

Listen to Lori Sykes as she plays patient favorite “Amazing Grace.”

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44 Responses to The nurse who serenades her patients

  1. Lue Catherine Sykes

    Thanks for sharing Lori and her music. As her mom, I have heard her play most of her life, but it is the anointing of God in her music that always makes it still a different experience each time I hear her.(tears this time) May she be blessed to continue being a blessing. Love you my dear Lori.

  2. Misty Rosser-White

    I enjoyed the article.Lori is so talented. Her patients are so blessed to have her. I wish her the best!!!!

  3. Denise W. Dodson

    Lori we love you. Continue to be a blessing to others. It’s always a pleasure knowing you do make a difference.

  4. Lori you are as beautiful as your music, I know that as a nurse you don’t always get the thank you or the I appreciate you as you deserve, so I am going to tell you as your co-worker Lori I appreciate you and thank you for blessing us with your loving, soul soothing, blessing from God.

  5. larry peterson

    having worked with lori for a while,i have found her to be very talented in her music and her work.way to go lori. she valso sings very well

  6. Chenoa Alamu

    I was deeply moved by this article and Lori’s rendition of “Amazing Grace”. To simply say she has something special is a mere understatement!!! The world needs to hear this young lady!!!

  7. Beautiful!
    Lori, you are truly Blessed and a true Blessing.

  8. Kudos to Lori. I’ve had the pleasure of hearing her
    play at her church. What an awesome gift!

  9. Sherri Turner

    Thanks Scrubs Magazine for posting this article! Lori has warm and caring spirit, and she passes it on to her patients with her excellent nursing skills and soothing music! Way to go Lori:-)

  10. Rosalind

    Such an inspiration . Makes you proud to be amember of this profession. Thanks Lori.

  11. Powell Odie, RN

    Lori, thank you very much for all that you do for our vets @ VAMC Memphis. Music not only soothes the mind, but the soul as well. I like to personally ,thank you for playing the violin for one our long time vets, whom passed away in February 2010. He would be so excited to see Lori and to hear her play the violin.
    Thank You,

  12. Melanie Rankin, LMSW


    This is so soothing and I can only imagine what wonders it does for our patients at this facility. You are truly a gift to our patients and employees as well. I kept hearing about an employee who played the violin and now I get to see who it is! I thank GOD for your gift and thank you for having the heart to share it!


  13. Angela Williams


  14. Patricia A. Johnson, RN

    Lori, Thanks so much for all that you do for our veterans both physically and spiritually. It is definitely known that music soothes and heals the soul which inturn allows for external healing. Being a veteran myself and a nurse, I can truly appreciate both of your talents. Continue to keep up the good work and God Bless you always.

  15. W. Keith Hilliard,MSN,CNL

    Our facility is blessed to have you providing compassionate patient care. Not only is the VAMC blessed to have you, the nursing profession is as well. Keep doing positive things and you will go far.

  16. Lisa H., RN

    A very touching article. Lori, you are truly a blessing. Your rendition of Amazing Grace is soothing to the soul. You are a vessel in many ways! May God continue to bless you.

  17. Roberta Mobley

    Good job Lori! Keep up the good work. Your music is beauty.

  18. "Jackie" R. Jones

    This is an amazing article, it’s refreshing to here of talent outside of our professions. I hope the recognition from this article; will inspire ours in the facility to sahre their gifts and talents as well to the veterans. I send a THANK YOU shout out to LORI..keep doing YOU. :)

  19. Patricia Hurth,RN

    Way to go Lori.! Your music is so soothing,it even brings tears to my eyes when I hear you play. We love to hear and work with you in SICU. Please continue to bless our vets with your blessings.

  20. Sandra Sykes

    I praise God for you Lori, such a beautiful article for such a beautiful young lady inside and out. You are truly a blessing. Glad to know you are still blessing with your anointed music.
    Much Love

  21. Lanetria Garrett, MD

    Lori, This is absolutely beautiful.Thank you for blessing our patients with your gift. May God bless you richly!

  22. Trinda Merriweather, RT

    There is an old saying “Open your arms and welcome the joy of the day!” Lori your music truely brings joy to the heart! I remember the first time I heard you playing, I said wow, what radio station is that, the music is so rich and clear! I was amazed and delighted when I discovered the source. So listen up, your next visit to ICU, you just might hear those heavenly tones wafting through the unit, it will surely make your day!

  23. Peggy L. Kelley Smith

    Thank you Sid, and especially thank you Lori for sharing this beautiful music that speaks of the Amazing Grace that I know very personally.

  24. Dale Gabrielson, RN

    We enjoyed it when you came to the SICU to perform for our veterans. It was awesome and touching. Thank you!

  25. Alisa Moore

    Thanks for not wasting your gift. My young friend is in ICU and I will send this on to his family. Blessings to you sister.

  26. Diane

    Beautiful Lori!! a friend who was on the ventilator mentioned in your article shared this and what a blessing it truly is!! May God continue to bless you in your special ministry!

  27. Sid Woodard

    Having experienced your violin and voice firsthand

    Your talent is given for sharing as God planned

    You share it so well, as anyone can tell

    Who has every heard you sing and play.

    The love for your God you do display.

    With sounds like an angel, He sent you my way;

    While laying in my bed being subconscious and force-fed

    Into the room you came with violin in hand

    To play for one who had served his land

    You sang and played a tune for me.

    I did not know at the time

    From deaths’ door and the depths of hell, I must climb.

    When from coma I finally awoke

    Thought as first it must be some joke,

    My soul been stirred by some music I heard.

    The sweet sounds I remember still

    Because of you – my soul is fulfilled.

    -Sid Woodard

  28. Beverly J. Edwards


    You are truly a jewel of our King and I continue will pray that you continue to do whatever he leads you to do. Being a veteran and having been in the hospital a few times, I know how one needs something to soothing to the mind when layin in bed. Again, thanks for thinking of our veterans in more than a medical way.

  29. Ann Sorensen

    Thanks Lori. You play beautifully!!

  30. Your name

    How nice to be able to sooth patients at their worst moments! May God bless you Lori

  31. Sandra Knowles

    You are truely a blessing. As I read this article & listened to you play “Amazing Grace”, it brought tears to my eyes. May God continue to bless you and your ministry.

  32. Cynthia Scott

    Continue to Praise God with your Glorious Music!

    PSALM 100: vs. 1 – 2

    “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”
    “Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing.”



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  35. Porcia

    Good nurses are also hard to find. They are overworked and have a tendency to be a little mean. God has blessed you with skills and a special anointing to bring people closer to HIM. May you continue to be a blessing to others as I have been just reading the comments and listening to your music. You are a God sent.

  36. Thecla

    Hi Lori,
    I am an OR manager working in Dubai . You are truly blessed by the Lord happened to hear your violin clip of amazing grace it was really soothing ,God bless you & I pray for the grace to bring a change in the life of my patients.

    Thecla (Dubai UAE )

  37. Gail V. Goff

    How wonderful! Hearing “Amazing Grace” was just what I needed, after having a busy day in the Mental Health Out Patient Clinic, here at the VAMC, Memphis. Are you on “Youtube?” I would like my 3rd cousin, Renicea Bell (12 year old) to see and hear you play.
    She is an aspiring violinist.

  38. Marvia Balfour-Coleman, Nurse Manager of Cardiology Service VAMC-Memphis

    “Simply Beautiful”…. Lori, Thank you for sharing your god giving talents with us at VAMC-Memphis. I am so grateful to know you and our patients are so blessed to have you as their nurse. You are so amazing, may god continue to bless you, as you have blessed so many with your violin music.

    Marvia Balfour-Coleman, BSN, MSA, RN
    Nurse Manager of Cardiology Services

  39. April R

    What a great rendition of Amazing Grace. I liked it very much!

  40. Michelle W. Butler, RN

    Lori, I remember the first time I ever heard you play. I was in one of my patients room and I heard these angelic cords of music playing and I got goose bumps. I knew that there was an annointing to those notes. I am so happy for the gift God has instilled in you and I’m still impressed by your music. May the grace of God continue to bless your gift and abillity to heal with music forever…

  41. Lori thanks for being such a blessing to others. I ask
    God’s richest blessings on you. I am a patient at
    the Memphis VA (out patient). All of the folks there
    are just great and so caring.
    Bob Wiggins – June 10, 2010

  42. Renea

    WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is absolutely beautiful! If you ever leave Memphis for the Souther-middle part of the state, please let us know! We could use you at our hospital!! Amazing Grace was my Grandmother’s favorite song and my brother and sister and I would sing it for her all the time! Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful talent with your patients and with us this way!!!

  43. Lori,
    You are an Angel.To care so much for your patients. I know that God will bless you.
    I have been a nurse for 35 Years and this is a first for me to witness this. It shows that there are Nurses in this world that really care.

  44. Thank you for all of your encouraging comments. God has commissioned each of us to us whatever gifts that we have to convalesce our fellow man. I hope that this encourages each of you to do just the same.