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Secret Lives of OhioHealth: Hitting All the Right Notes

If there’s a recurring theme in how Karen Clifton, RN, BSN, approaches life, it’s this – follow your passion.

After putting her career on hold to raise her daughter, Clifton went to nursing school, earned an OhioHealth care fellowship, and became a Cardiovascular ICU nurse at OhioHealth Mansfield Hospital. Recently, she shifted her career to follow her passion for behavioral health.

“I have a daughter with autism,” Clifton said. “It’s a different kind of sickness, and I’ve always had a passion to work in this area.”

But it’s another “secret” passion that has come to light in a big way.

“I love singing, but didn’t have the confidence to sing in public when I was younger,” she said. “When you’re older, you learn to follow your instincts and not to worry as much.”

After hearing her sing karaoke, the Mansfield Symphony Orchestra’s conductor encouraged Clifton to submit a video for an upcoming show.

“I made the top five in online voting and was asked to perform in the Bach to Rock performance,” she said. “I sang ‘Alone by Heart,’ and it was an experience I’ll never forget.”

Her karaoke singing also led to a performance at the Miss Ohio Pageant.

“I was outside my comfort zone, but I’m glad pushed through,” Clifton admitted. “I credit becoming a nurse to my growing confidence and realizing I can do a lot of things.”

Strings and smiles

Mark Pierce, a local pastor at Church Requel, shares that same can-do attitude and a similar love for music while performing inside Mansfield Hospital.

“My granddaughter got a ukulele as a Christmas gift, and I thought it would be a great way to connect with her,” Pierce said.

Although she lost interest, Pierce taught himself to play watching YouTube videos and, within a year, started volunteering his talents at Mansfield Hospital.

“I’m just trying to share a little joy,” he said.

When he walks through the halls with that ukulele under his arms, he’s always greeted with smiles.

“Music lifts the spirit, it does something that medicine alone can’t do,” he said.

Generations of music makers

Two women at different stages of life share the same love for service and music at OhioHealth Riverside Methodist Hospital.

Connie Berry, 78, has been sliding up to the Steinway piano in the Blue lobby for nearly 16 years to play old standards like “Night and Day,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and a mix of show tunes.

“I volunteered by escorting patients before I developed a foot problem,” Berry said. “That’s when I saw the piano and thought, I could do that.”

After a 20-year career at Battelle, she wanted to stay active and engaged with people.

“I was told that music helps people, so I wanted to try it,” she said. “I don’t have any other talent, but I can play. Plus, this is therapeutic for me.”

On the same Steinway piano, while most students are still asleep on Saturdays, Maddie Garner, a sophomore at The Ohio State University, plays jazz and classical music, and even video game and movie themes.

She started as a volunteer greeter while she was still a junior in high school, before transitioning to the piano.

“They asked if I wanted to play for 30 minutes, and I said, ‘No, I want to play all three hours,’” she said.

Playing is her ministry, affording connections with people as they react to the music.

“The response from kids who recognize video game music and older adults seniors who can’t believe a young person knows how to play Claude Debussy is great,” she said. “I love that I’ve been given an opportunity to give back this way, and I experience a lot of joy doing it.”

This story was originally published in an internal OhioHealth associate publication.