Meet Nick Stukel, our featured volunteer from Washington, D.C.!
Get to know our volunteers!
Do you volunteer at a specific hospital? I volunteer at Children’s National Medical Center
How long have you been volunteering with Musicians On Call? Around 4 years!
Are you a Volunteer Guide or Volunteer Musician? Musician
What is your favorite song to play for patients? Since I’m at a Children’s hospital, the most recent Disney songs are usually a huge hit; I love playing them, and the kids (and often their parents) love singing along.
Have you ever been part of an impromptu jam session with patients or family in a hospital room? Yes, impromptu jam sessions are one of my favorite experiences with MOC! My favorites are the hallway jam sessions– sometimes, several kids and their families – along with nurses, doctors and techs – will all join in. We have a blast!
Do you perform anywhere else besides with MOC? The occasional benefit concert or local concert nights in DC…but MOC is one of my mainstays.
What is your occupation outside of MOC? Medical student (soon-to-be physician in T-minus 4 weeks!)
Do You Have Any Hidden Talents? I grew up on a ranch, and my grandfather spent a lot of time teaching me how to be handy…so if you have a broken faucet or need someone to build a bookshelf, I’m your guy. I love anything that involves challenge and some adrenaline—running marathons, flying planes, and scuba diving keep me busy when I’m not working in the hospital.
What is your story? What connects you with music and why do you volunteer with MOC? I grew up playing piano, and I strongly considered a professional career in music for a good part of high school and college. However, I had a strong desire to work in medicine as well, and after deciding to go to medical school a few years ago, I promised myself that I would do everything I could to keep music as a focus during my studies.
A few months into med school, I had become consumed with studying and felt like I was losing touch with my creative side. While out on a run one fall afternoon, I thought that running a race might help me re-focus. Long story short, I decided to embark on a seven continent marathon journey to support my two biggest passions: music and medicine. I initially joined MOC as a fundraiser, using the money I raised from running to support MOC’s work in hospitals across the country. But, I quickly realized that becoming involved as a volunteer musician could have just as important of an impact.
I have been playing with MOC for kids at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, ever since. Wheeling my keyboard from room to room is by far one of my favorite parts of the month, and I am grateful for the opportunity to share the joy of music with kids and their families!
What makes MOC different from your other volunteer experiences? Playing music is one of my most treasured ways to spend time, and being able to share that with other people – especially kids and their families who are experiencing challenging times – is unique and powerful. The majority of my volunteer experiences are on the other side of healthcare, such as seeing patients at my medical school’s free clinic. It is refreshing to walk into a patient’s room and not think about their medical issues; with MOC, I get to see each patient for who they are as a person, and connect with each of them on a deeper level through music.
Has your life changed because of your experience with MOC? In more ways than I can count. The refreshing perspective that being a part of MOC provides is revitalizing. And the way in which music allows me to connect with people helps give me perspective when working with patients from the medical side.
What is your favorite #MOCmoment? A few years ago, I walked into a room with my guide to play for a little girl and her mother. The girl didn’t speak when I asked her what kind of music she would like to hear, so I picked a song and started playing. She was initially pretty quiet, but as the song continued, she gradually started clapping along…and by the end, the whole room was singing.
As we were getting ready to leave, I noticed that the girl’s mother was crying. When I asked if everything was alright, she said that this was the first time in weeks that her daughter had interacted with anyone, and that this experience gave her hope.
That moment was one of the most powerful experiences I have had in healthcare, and it has shaped the way I approach medicine.