Menu

PALLIATIVE CARE WEEK: MEET JOSH DENNY-KEYS, MUSIC THERAPIST AT ST. JOHN HOSPICE

This week is National Hospice and Palliative Care Week (May 2-8). To recognize the week, today we meet Joshua (Josh) Denny-Keys, a music therapist with Providence. Josh was recently featured in the news for working with Jack Roche, a resident at St. John Hospice, and bringing Jack’s song about Vancouver to life.

Current role: Certified Music Therapist, St. John Hospice & St. Paul’s Hospital Palliative Care Unit

Describe your work: I use music (mainly using my voice and guitar) to provide comfort care - helping patients to reduce their perception of pain, facilitate rest and/or sleep, aid in regulating their breathing, and improve mood. Additionally, music therapy benefits not just the patients I work with, but also their friends and family, by providing them a safe way to connect with their loved ones, cope with new diagnoses, and deal with grief and loss.

How long have you been with Providence? 4 years.

Why Providence? PHC supports music therapy better than any other health organization that I have come across. Music therapists are treated as valuable and integral members of the patient care team. From my experiences elsewhere, I have found it is not always like that.

What is your favourite thing about your work? The patients and families I work with. It is such a privilege to be included in the final stage of someone’s life, and to be able to provide a therapeutic experience through the use of music? It’s an honour.

If you weren’t in your current job, what would you be doing? Brewmaster? Stand-up comic? Play-by-play announcer? Social media influencer? I did have a brief stint as a jingle writer, perhaps I missed my calling there.

What is something that might surprise people to learn about you? If you know me you might not be surprised, but I was lucky enough to be featured in a music video for my favourite band (Weezer - Hero 0:48 - 0:53). That was pretty neat.

What is a meaningful moment or memory you have from this role? There have been many in my brief tenure as a music therapist with Providence, but I will share some quotes from the patients and families I have worked with on the palliative care unit. It is their positive experiences with music therapy that mean the most to me.

  • “I very much value this program! Music is magical & in our world we need all the magic we can get.”
  • “A real bright spot in my day. You (Josh) have created good memories, despite a bad situation.”
  • “A valuable and uplifting session that I really enjoyed. There is music for every taste and appetite. It’s fantastic to be uplifted when so much of being in hospital is the opposite.”
  • “Beneficial to all. Very healing. Such a strong effect on the family and patient. Thank you.”
  • “Great service in the midst of this emotional roller coaster - thank you!”
  • “Not only is Josh incredibly talented but his calm manner is comforting too. We loved it! It makes me so happy to see how much my dad enjoyed listening to [him].”

What inspires you? Being a part of a team that not only preaches empathy, but lives it. The selfless compassion of our nurses, doctors, allied staff, and everyone else is truly inspiring. 

What do you wish people knew about Palliative Care? Palliative care is not giving up. It is a shift in care that focuses on the immediate well-being of a person, fostering a space for comfort, meaningful time with friends and family, spiritual connectedness, and so much more. The rhetoric around “battling illness” can be so detrimental when curative treatments are no longer possible, creating a situation where the patient is viewed as “giving up” or “losing” the battle. Everyone dies - that is a fact. Palliative care optimizes quality of life and mitigates suffering, allowing for an easier transition through the end of life.

This page last updated May 4, 2021 5:33pm PDT