She wakes up to a pitch-black sky, hours before arriving at the cancer center. The sun still hasn’t risen by the time she’s dressed in scrubs, driving to work and reaching for the radio dial.
For Dannielle Obermeier, clinical leader and registered nurse at University of Florida Health Shands Hospital, the workday begins with the 6 a.m. sound of Shift Change Radio Hour.
She’s one of tens to hundreds of medical workers tuning in weekly. This support led the radio show, made for health care professionals like her, to celebrate a year on air in October.
Shift Change, of the UF Shands Arts in Medicine program, is an hourlong broadcast dedicated to uplifting Gainesville health care workers and the Shands Hospital community through music.
Prerecorded and hosted by various Shands artists in residence, the show airs on WMBT 90.1 FM Wednesday mornings and evenings from 6 to 7.
It plays during the hours of hospital shift change, host Andrew Hix explained.
Hix, integrative therapies practitioner and Shands writer in residence, coproduces Shift Change with Michael Claytor, Shands musician in residence. Throughout the hour, the two spotlight workers’ song requests, shoutouts, patient testimonials, musical performances and guest DJs.
“It’s a platform for storytelling of all kinds related to arts and health,” Claytor said.
After the broadcast, each episode is archived online, making it available for anyone to listen.
The show drives itself, Hix said, thanks to the artistic contributions and involvement of its intended audience, patients and staff.
Its main fuel is “powerful moments of word-of-mouth sharing.”
Hix and Claytor emphasize community engagement by collecting requests directly from Shands nurses stations and working with on-air guests from the hospital to write and perform music.
Boosting their voices encourages others to participate, a ripple effect that builds more community, connection and art, Hix said.
“What we once thought of as something that might go away after a few weeks became something that’s like an engine for art making in the hospital.”
Claytor said he began the project last fall to create “a lasting way of giving back to health care workers” across Gainesville during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A year later—and with no plans of stopping—the show is an important reminder of the gratitude that’s still needed.
According to New York Times data, Florida saw its highest average COVID death rate in Sept. 2021 and peaked in average cases and daily hospital admissions the following January.
As the nation pushed toward a new normal in the 55 episodes since Shift Change’s premiere, public concern for COVID diluted.
Praises for medical personnel dissipated the longer the pandemic went on, Obermeier said.
But the daily labor of health care workers remains constant. And so does the radio show’s display of appreciation.
“This is a great outlet to remember we are loved—and we are shouting it from the rooftops through the radio waves,” Obermeier said.
Shift Change gives listeners the unique chance to hear themselves on air, whether by curating personally meaningful songs for the “Music as Medicine” segment or by performing original music and poetry.
“People want to tell their stories,” Claytor said.
Obermeier said hearing those stories has brought her to tears. She’s since asked Hix for posters and stickers to help promote the show.
“The more voices we have on the show, the better it is,” Claytor added.
The radio hour lends a platform for the diversity and longevity of interpersonal connections within the hospital, demonstrated by guests like Betsy Fisher, the mother of a former Shands patient.
Fisher, 60, grew close to the Shands Arts in Medicine staff throughout the four years of her son Marshal’s lung cancer treatment. He passed away in 2018.
She said she first felt the significance of the Arts in Medicine program through the solace it provided her son.
Eight years later, the Shands community is still there for her as a bereaved parent.
Fisher worked with Hix over months on the phone to rewrite journal entries about her time with her son into poems, then two songs.
She performed the pieces on air in Dec. 2021 and July. She said the show helped her not only reignite a love of songwriting and guitar playing but also “process grief in different ways, creatively.”
“It really is the gift that keeps on giving.”
For Claytor and Hix, Shift Change persists as a testament to the community—Hix called it “part of the fabric of what it is to live in Gainesville.”
Listeners can expect the show to continue celebrating an annual anniversary, even if the pressures on health care workers suddenly cease.
“Zero COVID cases, it would still have a really powerful role, now that we know what it’s capable of.”