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Ukuleles Enhance Employee Wellness at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara: Doctors and staff practice and perform for fun, well-being


If you hear the sweet strumming of ukuleles early in the morning as you walk through the corridors of Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center, you aren’t having Hawaiian dreams. It’s actually a group of employees who gather to practice their music every Wednesday morning. The doctors, pharmacists, pathologists and staff who play in the group believe it’s a great way to start the day.

“There’s nothing better than seeing over a dozen people smiling, laughing, and having a good time,” explained Ron Ball, IT engineer for Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara. Ball’s motto is, “Ukuleles = Healthy.”

Ball partnered with the medical center’s employee wellness coordinator, Sara Bousfield, last year to set up the group. It supports Kaiser Permanente’s focus on creating a healthy work environment for employees.


“Sometimes Kaiser Permanente members passing our rehearsal room smile,” said Bousfield. “They see us taking time to take care of our own well-being through music.”

About 16 group members show up regularly for ukulele rehearsals in a medical center conference room. Some wear lab coats; others wear scrubs.  They unpack their instruments and place cardboard nameplates in front of where they’re sitting. Then they install a clip-on tuning device to their instrument and tune up. The electronic digital tuner detects pitch directly from the uke’s vibrations, making tuning a snap. Ball leads the group and helps with chords.

“Playing the ukulele is so fun and easy,” said Gemalyn Michaels of the medical center’s health education center. “I’ve always wanted to learn how to play and having a class is a great idea that sets the tone for the rest of my day.”

“Our jobs are serious, by definition,” said Amanda Doherty, MD. “The club is a place where we can lighten up, be playful and make mistakes in a supportive environment.”

All of the players at a recent rehearsal said playing the ukulele reduces their stress. “It mentally transports you to the tranquil beaches of Hawaii,” explained David John of the health education department.

Bousfield claims she feels the health benefits of playing her ukulele. “My blood pressure comes down, my heart rate slows, stress falls away and a feeling of joy comes up.”

And here’s a short movie of the ukulele group at work:


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