Medicine & Music: Grapevine nurse pivots careers, picks up flute

Former nurse plays healing music

GRAPEVINE, Texas -- They say music has the power to heal, and it's the reason one Grapevine nurse is starting a new career.

After decades spent helping patients as a registered nurse, Diane Michal found a new way to care for them while following a lifelong passion for music.

"When we play for patients, it's not performance. It's service," said Michal. "We're looking at where they are in the moment, and what their needs are."

Michal still works as a nurse, but she's now pursuing a career as a certified music practitioner. She plays the flute weekly in the lobby of Baylor Grapevine, in addition to other Baylor hospitals. 

"We are just there providing the music with no real expectations from the patient," said Michal.

She played songs ranging from classical to pop, rendered in the peaceful tone of the flute.

"Beautiful music, and it's really relaxing," said Emile LeBlanc, who was listening in the lobby as she cradled her 2-week-old baby. "She's sleeping right through it, so I think she's doing good. She likes it."

Michal is a volunteer, but there are several staff music practitioners. It differs from music therapy, where music is actually prescribed. This, Michal said, is less clinical but still with a purpose.

"They may have needs for comfort. They may have needs for distraction," she said.

Michal has loved the flute since she first picked it up in the fourth grade, and through high school, she thought of pursuing music as a career. Her parents suggested otherwise.

"My parents really discouraged me from going into music. I think they had this image of a starving musician," she said.

She largely gave the up flute as she focused on medicine. She served 20 years as a nurse in the Navy before moving to civilian work. But five years ago, she rediscovered her love of the flute when she began playing at her church.

"I started in the orchestra, picked up my old, old flute from high school," Michal said.

Now, after private lessons and a certification program, she is close to achieving her goal of becoming a certified music practitioner and hopes to do the work full time.  She'll still be serving patients, but with renewed passion.

"To me, it's a blessing to play for them," she said.

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